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Jaguars Were DT Maason Smith's Team of Choice: "Best Day of My Life"

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JACKSONVILLE – As Maason Smith saw it, this was perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Perfect location, perfect opportunity. Perfect moment.

Smith, a defensive tackle from Louisiana State University, on Friday night was selected by the Jaguars No. 48 overall in the 2024 NFL Draft – the 16th selection of Round 2. He became the second LSU player selected by the Jaguars in this draft, the seventh draftee from LSU in franchise history.

And make no mistake: The Jaguars were his team of choice.

"I'm really excited," he said. "For me, honestly, I don't think it could have ended up any better. I don't think there's a better situation for me to go to."

Smith (6-feet-6, 315 pounds), who entered the draft as a redshirt sophomore, said that was true for multiple reasons. Jacksonville is relatively close to his hometown of Houma, La., and he's accustomed to warm weather.

"It's a lot of things I'm very much used to," he said.

But he said the main reason was his many relationships with people already around the Jaguars. He is close with wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr., his LSU teammate who was selected by the Jaguars in Round 1 Thursday – and Jaguars inside linebacker coach Matt House served as LSU's defensive coordinator the past two seasons.

"That's my guy, been my guy since he got to LSU," he said of House. "He's always believed me and always had confidence in me. I'm just fortunate enough to be able to be around him and my dog, BT [Thomas]. We're going to rock the world and we're going to do what we're going to do."

He added of Thomas, "It's definitely going to make my transition a little bit easier knowing that I got a brother with me already."

Maason also is close with Jaguars defensive line coach Jeremy Garrett from Garrett's time at Vanderbilt when Smith was in high school.

"From the jump of the conversations that we had, they were just real," he said. "I just like to have realists around me, people who are not going to shy away from telling me what I need to hear instead of what I want to hear. A lot of guys run from that and I run to it."

Smith, who started two full seasons at LSU, was a freshman All-America selection in 2021 before missing all but one game in his 2022 sophomore season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

He registered 28 tackles 4.5 for loss, in 2023 with 2.5 sacks and two pass breakups and four quarterback hurries. He started 17 of 22 games played for his career.

LSU defensive tackle Maason Smith (0) battles Grambling State offensive lineman Shontrail Key (65) during an NCAA college football game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

He had 47 career tackles with 9.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.

"This is best I felt since my knee injury," he said. "It was tough for me coming back this year, not necessarily playing the way I know I can and up to my ability. At the end of it, I felt great. Coming into this next chapter of my life, I'm just going to continue to excel and grow in the right direction."

Smith said he began feeling close to 100 percent late this past season, and said he was able to show closer to his true ability during his Pro Day and at the NFL Scouting Combine during the pre-draft process.

"I think my best football is yet to come," he said. "I just have to continue to progress and excel, because I'm a physical freak. I'm a specimen. For me, I always thought it was consistency and with consistent coaching comes consistent play.

"I know when I get into the building and get that consistent culture I need, I feel like the sky's the limit. My best ball is ahead of me, and I can't wait to reach that point."

And make no mistake: Smith said he will enter his NFL career a motivated player.

"I don't regret anything," he said. "I definitely feel like ever since my injury there has been a bigger chip on my shoulder. Even going into the draft, I feel like a lot of people were unsure about me. I got a lot of questions about if I love ball and things of that nature. I bust my ass every single day just like anybody else. And I put my cleats on the same way, put my shoulder pads on the same way.

"When somebody asks you that, it's kind of a hit to your character. I'm a high character kid. I put my all on the field when I'm out there. It definitely has given me a chip on my shoulder."

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