Shortly after he was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Southern Cal linebacker Cameron Smith got an opportunity to sit down and take part in a conference call with the Twin Cities media. Thanks to the good folks from the Minnesota Vikings’ PR Department, we have a transcript of that interview that we can share with you.
I am just excited to be here. It’s such an honor to be part of the Vikings. It’s been a long weekend but I can’t wipe the smile off my face. Just excited and can’t wait to get there.
Q: Did you think the Vikings were a possible option coming into the draft?
A: It’s hard to walk in thinking that. I feel like the teams that talk to us a lot, you have a feeling for it. But you just never can predict what is going on. I had a feeling in my heart that I could be a Viking because in the last three years at USC we ran the exact same defense and I feel like it will be a perfect fit walking in there. I feel like I wouldn’t have any issues learning the defense. As of right now, I just feel like it was meant to be.
Q: How do you see your skill set transitioning?
A: I feel like I can do whatever they want me to do to be honest with you. I feel like I have so much more to learn and I can get a lot better and I think that getting there and working with the linebackers coach and some of the veterans there, I just think I can learn a lot. Whatever they need me to do, if it’s play the bigger package and stop the run or even come in and play on third down and do whatever they need. I am really confident in whatever they ask of me. I am just ready to contribute as much as possible.
Q: How do you think your play speed as opposed to timed speed translates to the NFL?
A: That is hard to even think about just because I’ve never played in the NFL. I think my instincts are going to take over. I remember getting there to USC my freshman year in the spring. When the game gets picked up and everyone else is playing faster, I just feel a true player plays faster. I’m just excited to feel that speed. The unknowing part is just different. Everyone talks about it but I think if you are a football player, you adjust to whatever is going on. I am excited to be there and just start working with the team.
Q: Was it hard battling your injuries?
A: I think my freshman year with my ACL is something I never had to deal with in my life but it’s something that I feel happens for a reason and I feel like I run stronger and worked on muscles you just don’t always work on unless you’re rehabbing for something. Again, I looked at it like it was supposed to be and just have to overcome that adversity and move on. My last two years I played my best football and the best is yet to come to be honest with you.
Q: What factored into coming back to play for your senior year instead of declaring?
A: I felt like I have a lot to work on. I just felt like I left high school early and I felt like I was rushing things. I just didn’t want to look back and think that I rushed out of college. You look at a lot of guys right now and I think this is the back-to-back year they broke the record with juniors coming out. I don’t always feel like it’s beneficial. I think growing up and maturing and especially playing. The offensive and defensive linemen and even linebackers you’re dealing with grown men. The more that I can mature and grow into my body and I started to just figure out what I am supposed to eat right. I think overall it was the best fit for me to come back and learn more and keep picking [Clancy] Pendergast’s brain and then I look back at it right now and we run the same defense. I’ve worked with Clancy for so long and I feel I am going to walk in and things are going to click for me. I felt like this was just meant to be.
Q: How would you describe the kind of leader you are?
A: There are guys that talk too much and it isn’t always reciprocated as well as they’d like to. There are guys that lead by example too much and they don’t have as much as a voice. I think that there is a fine line between the both of them. Obviously, leading by example is the best thing that you can do as a leader and always doing the right things and people will want to follow. But being able to express your opinions and get after some guys is how you set yourself apart. Being in the middle of those two and just in terms of leadership style for your team. Everyone responds in different ways and I think it’s important to get to know your teammates and figure out how to lead them and get guys behind you.
Q: Did you play basketball player or is there any other basketball or football players in your family besides your grandfather playing basketball at Duke?
A: I played basketball when I was little. I wasn’t that great because I always fouled out around the second quarter. I wasn’t all that great at basketball. I played a lot of baseball growing up. We traveled all over the country and competed in Florida twice, Georgia once, and Cooperstown twice. Competition has always been a big part of my life. My dad has always pushed me to be productive. His least favorite phrase was ‘just hanging out’. I was never allowed to just hang out. Sports have always been a huge part of my life.
Q: How did you get an interest in wine making?
A: I just thought it was fascinating, what goes into a glass. I remember looking at people and they were ordering wines. I think it’s just an off the field interest that I think is cool. I think in the last year and a half or so I didn’t find myself drinking that much wine because all I focus on is football but I think the science part of it that goes into it is really fascinating and really cool. The agriculture part and farming is fascinating to me.
Q: What is your favorite wine?
A: My response is a little bit different than who you think I am. I worked at Melville Winery over the summer two years ago and their pinot noir is off the chain. It’s very light and pretty and elegant. I still feel like most people look at me like I am going to be a big body heavy cabernet. I just like the lighter, prettier looking pinot noirs that taste really good to me. That whole cluster that adds just a little more veggie to it that I think tastes great. It’s something that it’s always important to have a life outside of football and be ready for whatever happens.
Q: What is your favorite thing to hunt?
A: I spent a lot of time hunting waterfowl. We actually shoot a lot of ducks in California so people always look at me a little dumbfounded when I say that. Up north in Chico, I spent a lot of time up there hunting with some of my buddies shooting a lot of ducks and geese. The best time for me, for football players in general I guess, the hunt is probably turkey season because you’re only going to catch the latter half of waterfowl season. All of deer season is pretty much a busy time. We try to get out and hunt turkeys every now and then as much as we can. Going to school in Los Angeles, it was my way to get away and do the things that I love and come back up north and go to Chico and hunt and wear my boots and jeans and get after it a little bit.