Kelvin Smith Shining In Many Ways In Denton
DENTON – Going back to his younger days, North Texas tight end Kelvin Smith can’t remember a day when he wasn’t wired, what he called, a “little bit differently.”
In the age of tight ends like Rob Gronkowski being red-zone killers, Smith is a bit of a throwback, and he’d have it no other way.
When asked to describe his high school playing days at Spring Dekaney, in the Houston area, the Mean Green’s most versatile player summed it up quite simply.
“I was a full-time tight end. Hand in the ground. Old-school,” Smith said.
While he’s moved on from strictly being a blocking tight end to a tight end and H-back who even splits out wide from time to time, Smith quickly goes back to his roots when asked his favorite thing to do on the field.
“I just like the physicality of the position,” said Smith, a 6-foot-2, 252-pound redshirt junior. “Honestly when you put someone on your back running the ball, that feels way better than catching a football. I guess I’m just wired a little bit differently. I just love putting my face on people and hitting people under the chin rather than catching the football.”
Smith averaged just less than two catches per game last season and didn’t find the end zone once after scoring twice in 2016 on just seven catches, but UNT head coach Seth Littrell said Smith is one of the most important players on his team.
“He’s probably one of the most versatile guys on our team,” Littrell said. “He’s really important to our offense just because of all the things we can do with him personnel-wise. He’s having to play in the slot, the sniffer and he attaches as the tight end. He’s very productive. He’s a great teammate and will do whatever is necessary to help this football team win.
“The biggest thing is he’s not selfish,” Littrell added. “He’s made some big-time plays for us but he understands – he’s not a guy that wants the ball all the time but he’s gonna do whatever it takes to get his team a win. Whether he gets five or six catches in a game or zero, it’s all about winning to him.”
Smith not only is a key cog in the Mean Green running game but is also a special teams ace who plays on every special teams unit.
In fact, in a game last season against UAB, Smith played every snap on offense and special teams.
“Not many guys can do it,” Littrell said. “At times, we want to find different ways to get him a break and some rest, but the amount of depth we have at that position hasn’t been as deep. He’s a war daddy, though. He does a great job of doing whatever is necessary. I can’t say enough about him.”
Smith remembers that game, and his coaches’ plan to get him an occasional breather in the aftermath of it. He doesn’t remember the latter fondly.
“After that UAB game, they cut down my reps and my snaps and I was mad,” Smith said, with a laugh. “I’m a competitor and I want to be on the field all the time. I was a little bit pissed, to be honest. For the rest of the season, they cut down a little bit because they were afraid of the number of reps I was getting. I take good care of my body though, and I can handle that grind.”
While he will always be a hand-in-the-ground masher first and foremost, Smith said he is excited about the possibility of an expanded role in the passing game in 2018.
“I would love to catch more passes, especially if that helps the offense,” Smith said. “We’ve been watching a few other teams and how they utilize their tight end and H-back, and we’ve been pulling some from them and finding some hidden yardage - just five to seven yards here and there of dumping the ball off.”
Littrell is just happy to have an established presence at the position who can lead the way in the running game and also catch some passes when needed.