Notre Dame DT Chris Smith signs undrafted free agent deal with Detroit Lions

On3 imageby:Tyler Horka04/30/23


Notre Dame defensive tackle Chris Smith wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. But if he was, he would have put on a show.

Smith benched 225 pounds for 37 reps at Notre Dame’s Pro Day in March. That would have ranked No. 2 out of all 319 combine invitees. Only USC offensive lineman Andrew Vorhees put up more reps (38).

Bench press numbers are pretty far down the list of what scouts look for in a good football player. But Smith impressed enough in other areas to earn an undrafted free agency signing with the Detroit Lions. The Detroit native is staying home with the hopes of carving out a professional career in the sport he loves.

A four-year Ivy League veteran at Harvard, Smith transferred to Notre Dame last year to exhaust his final year of eligibility in South Bend. The reserve DT recorded 17 total tackles, including 0.5 tackle for loss. Smith played 265 defensive snaps, 19th most of any Notre Dame player. He was one of the team’s top tacklers with a season-long Pro Football Focus grade of 79.4 in that category. Only five Irish players — linebacker Jack Kiser (89.4), safety Houston Griffith (85.1), defensive end Isaiah Foskey (83.5), cornerback TaRiq Bracy (81.8) and defensive end Junior Tuihalamaka (80.9) — had better marks.

According to PFF, Smith did not miss a single tackle in 2022. Of the nine Notre Dame players who logged a missed tackle percentage of 0.0, Smith played the most defensive snaps — by far. His 265 were 178 more than Tuihalamaka’s 87, which were the second-most.

Smith became a useful depth player in the interior of Notre Dame’s defensive line after Jacob Lacey entered the transfer portal four games into the season. He played a season-high 63 snaps in the Stanford game. He eclipsed 20 on six other occasions including the season opener at top-five Ohio State and the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl vs. South Carolina.

Safety Brandon Joseph (Lions), kicker Blake Grupe (Saints) and defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola (Jacksonville Jaguars) also signed undrafted free agent deals. Defensive end Justin Ademilola (Green Bay Packers) and offensive lineman Josh Lugg (Chicago Bears) received rookie minicamp invites.

Notre Dame had three 2023 NFL Draft picks. Tight end Michael Mayer went to the Las Vegas Raiders with the No. 35 overall pick in the second round. Foskey quickly followed him going No. 40 overall to the Saints. Offensive lineman Jarrett Patterson was picked No. 2021 overall in the sixth round by the Houston Texans.

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