JACKSONVILLE – Jordan Smith expected this, in a way.
And in that same way, he couldn't have been happier Saturday when he heard he had been selected by the Jaguars in the 2021 NFL Draft.
"I always had the Jags in my eyes," he said.
That became reality when the Jaguars selected the University of Alabama-Birmingham edge rusher No. 121 overall Saturday. He was the 16th selection of the fourth round, with the Jaguars trading up from No. 130 to make the selection.
"It's a dream come true," he said, "but at the end of the day, I just feel like this is my call for my job, for my career. I am living a dream. Now this dream is reality and that dream is my job, so I have to use this as my occupation. It's not time for fun, not time for play. This is time for me to build my brand and start my career as an adult."
Smith, who began his career at the University of Florida, was suspended by the Gators as a redshirt freshman and never played at UF. He transferred to Butler (Kan.) Community College before spending his final two seasons at UAB.
"What I learned about myself is I'm very mentally strong," he said. "I feel like if that was any other player in this draft to have to go through what I went through, they probably wouldn't have made it back to this point. I just know I have a great mental [state].
"I give everything to God. I keep everything spiritual. I just make sure I do everything I need to to make sure I don't go back down those roads again, make sure I just go up from here and excel."
Smith (6-feet-7, 255 pounds) registered 15 sacks in two seasons at UAB, including 4.5 this past season. He had 27 tackles for loss, including 9.5 this past season. Smith on Saturday said "I feel like I was the best pass rusher in this draft."
"I've shown multiple different moves that I've used effectively where other pass rushers have less moves, two or three moves," Smith said. "I have a big arsenal of moves. I use my mind. I use my mental game to help me excel in the game.
"I feel like I bring a lot to the table. I'm a great person. I'm a great teammate, great locker room guy, so I feel like I bring a lot to the table."
Added Smith, "My favorite pass rush move would probably be 'stab, swipe'. It was the move that I learned in high school, 'stab, swipe, rip'. Still to this day, to become a professional, it still works, so that's one of my favorite moves."
Smith spent his final season at UAB dealing with double teams and blocking schemes designed to minimize his effectiveness after a strong sophomore season.
"Even when I would have a one on one, it would be a quick slant, pitch and catch type of feel with the quarterback," he said. "I adjusted. I played my game."
Smith, who said the Jaguars see him as defensive end/outside linebacker, was invited to the Reese's Senior Bowl following the 2020 season. He forewent his senior season to declare for the draft.
"The Senior Bowl was a great experience for what I needed to prove," he said. "Never playing a down at Florida and having to go to UAB and having an outstanding career, people were asking, 'Is this something that he can do against anybody?' The Senior Bowl was my opportunity to show that I can do what I do against anybody regardless of who's in front of me, and I felt like I did a great job at that."
Smith added, "I feel like the Jags were always in the picture, even since the Senior Bowl. I feel like their meeting was more trying to really get to know me instead of trying to just nitpick at what I had in the past. They were actually trying to figure out what type of person I was.
"They told me they loved me as a player, so it was very good from the start."