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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – The game of football has been compared to many things, most often being called a battle. But never, never in the history of the NFL has anyone compared any part of the game to cellular respiration.

Eric Smith runs back interception against Rams

That is, until one talks with Eric Smith.

Last week, Jets head coach Rex Ryan praised the Jets safety for his understanding of the defense and certainly that shouldn’t be a surprise. Smith is smart, borderline brilliant and is largely considered the smartest Jet on the team. The seventh year veteran reads Greek Mythology for fun and got his masters degree several years ago.

He’s also the player that all new members of the secondary turns to in order to understand the defense. Smith likened studying the playing book to understanding biology and in particular cellular respiration.

This we had to hear.

“Things start from one thing and kind of evolve from another thing. Things keep adding up, the concepts are related like the cells splitting and reproducing,” Smith told The Jets Blog. “In that way, it reminds me a lot of cellular respiration.”

“I take pride in knowing the defense but I play a lot of positions. It makes it easier when guys are in there like Dave [Harris] and B.T. (Bryan Thomas) who also know and understand the defense.”

Perhaps it is just the brainy side of Smith coming out.

It took Smith just four offseasons to get his masters degree in criminal justice. He took three or four classes each offseason while balancing his own individual workouts along with OTAs, minicamp and then training camp. He finished with a 3.5 G.P.A. and his final assignment was a 50-page paper that he “procrastinated” and wrote during the course of a week.

Undergrad was a time, he said, where he “slacked off” and earned “only” a 3.3 G.P.A. That Japanese Literature course killed him in the fall of his sophomore year, he recalls, shaking his head.

And now Smith is relied upon and praised by the likes of Yeremiah Bell for his intricate understanding of the Jets playbook.

“If it’s going to help us make plays and be successful I will do that,” Smith said. “Usually I’m the guy everyone comes to because I’ve been around so long. I’ve picked that reputation up because I’ve been here the longest. I’m glad to do it though.”

Kristian R. Dyer is a Jets beat reporter for Metro New York and contributes to The Jets Blog. Follow him at @KristianRDyer for Jets breaking news and info from Florham Park.

Tags: New York Jets, Editorial Aside, Reports, Player Profile, Greek Mythology, Playbook, Eric Smith, Rex Ryan, Yeremiah Bell, Japanese Literature, laron landry
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