Former Auburn offensive tackle Braden Smith was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday night.
Smith was a veteran along the Tigers’ offensive line for three seasons, making 41 consecutive starts during his Auburn career. He could have left early and declared for the draft as a junior, but he opted to return for his senior season. At 6’6’, 303 pounds, Smith will be a positive addition to whichever offensive line he joins, and can probably see playing time immediately.
Aside from blocking and pulling, Smith is also known for his weightlifting feats. In fact, he’a been lifting since the fourth grade, when his dad showed him the ropes.
“It was fun for me,” Smith said via the Montgomery Advertiser last summer. “It was like a hobby almost.”
Here he is bench pressing 515 pounds — yes, FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTEEN FREAKING POUNDS — as a high schooler, five years ago:
Back then, he was able to squat around 600 pounds, clean in the 300s, and could jump 37 inches. He was a highly touted prospect who picked Auburn on National Signing Day in 2014. In the fall of his freshman season, he earned the nickname “Drago,” after the Russian boxer from Rocky IV.
“I know we’ve got Braden Smith and he looks like the Russian off Rocky IV,” Auburn center Reese Dismukes told AL.com. “Drago or whatever his name is. He looks like that guy and he’s only a freshman.”
“If I saw Braden in public and I didn’t know him at all, and you told me he was a freshman in college, I would not believe you at all,” offensive guard Chad Slade said via the newspaper. “He’s one big and strong athlete. He’s going to be something great.”
In sixth grade, Smith told his father David about his dream to play DI football. That’s when his training regimen got more serious: Via the Opelika-Auburn News:
“I said, well, you’re going to have to commit yourself to it. You’re going to have to do a lot of work. You’re going to have to get good grades. You’re going to have to a lot of things,” Davis said. “I told him every day, there’s somebody out there trying to work as hard as you. You need to be working harder than them. That included weights, running, training, whatever. And this kid, he just took off with it.”
The schedule Smith put himself through daily during high school is enough to make you exhausted just reading about it, but there’s a reason he weighed 290 pounds of mostly muscle as a high school senior.
David said Smith would wake up every morning at 6 a.m. for Olympic weightlifting, then get in another workout during weightlifting class. After school, he would have football practice — he never missed one, Jane said, not even if it was a voluntary summer workout — and when he got home from that, he would do his homework and get in one more lift before bed.
At the NFL Combine in February, Smith benched 35 reps at 225 pounds, which was tied for second among offensive linemen (Smith and Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson finished behind Will Hernandez out of UTEP). What’s even cooler is that Smith raised money for charity with his bench press:
“It was something I could do to give back, while also doing the combine,” Smith said in Indianapolis. “It was kind of a win-win. I reached my goal. The money goes toward Autism Speaks. It’s something I did when I was young back in elementary school. We had this little program at our school where we’d work with people with autism, get them accustomed.
“Kids don’t quite know how to handle situations, so just kind of being there for them, giving them someone to talk to.”
Smith benched 225 pounds 35 times, which earned more than $3,000 for the organization that sponsors autism research.
“I wish I could have done more,” Smith said. “But I helped the foundation today and set myself up pretty good.”
Smith’s vertical checked in a 33.5, which tied for second for offensive linemen.
With his size and strength, he’ll be a welcome addition to the Colts next season.