Hakeem Smith just finished his last season at Louisville, and now he is pursuing his dream of playing in the NFL. The former Riverdale High standout already has his undergraduate degree. He was a four-year starter for the Cardinals, which are coming off one of the best season’s in school history after a win over Miami in the Florida Citrus Bowl last month in Orlando. In that game, the four-time all-conference selection started his 51st consecutive game, a new school record. He was recently chosen to play in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 18 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Clayton News Daily sports editor Derrick Mahone recently caught up with Smith via cellphone to get his thoughts on his NFL dream and his career for the Louisville Cardinals.
Question: How excited are you with opportunity to play in East-West Shrine Game?
Answer: “I’m very excited with the chance to showcase my talents in front of a lot of pro scouts. It is going to be a big game for me. There is a lot of competition among the players, and it gives the coaches a chance to see you against the best.”
Q: What is your assessment of your college career?
A: “I’m very pleased at what I was able to accomplish, and especially what the team was able to do. We played well in our final game against a good ACC team like Miami. We showed that we can play in the ACC. We faced a lot adversity and a lot of doubters, but we came out on top.”
Q: What did it mean to you being named captain in your final college game?
A: “It was very special for me to end my career as a game captain. I started the season as a captain in the first game, and ended that way. I’m so happy that (Louisville) coach (Charlie) Strong believed in me and my abilities as a leader.”
Q: How special was it starting your 51st game, a school record?
A: “Once I got into the starting line-up, I didn’t want to give that position up. That was special playing in that many games. I was hurt at times, but I played through it. You just have to be mentally tough and go all out every time you play.”
Q: How happy were you to be part of a team that won 12 games this season?
A: “It just shows how far we have come as a program under coach Strong. When he first got here, we went 4-8 and improved every year. We went through the rebuilding process and it just showed how hard we worked to get to this point.”