Washington's James Johnson is brought down after a pass reception...

Washington's James Johnson is brought down after a pass reception by Southern California's Malcolm Smith. (Sept. 19, 2009) Credit: AP


That's the word Malcolm Smith used to describe his feelings when he learned that he would not be invited to the combine earlier this year.

The USC linebacker and younger brother of Giants receiver Steve Smith was looking forward to showing NFL scouts and executives what he could offer, but instead of catching passes and running sprints in Indianapolis, he had to stay home.

While many of the players drafted this weekend will be able to point to the combine experience as a factor in their new careers, if Smith is selected by an NFL team he, too, will likely credit the combine -- or at least the snub by those who run it -- for his success.

"Obviously, I was really disappointed," he said. "You get shunned, you get a little chip on your shoulder and it helps you work out every day. I just tried to use that spurn as a positive thing. I was going to work hard either way, but when you don't feel like you're not recognized when you should have been, it's a little more fuel in your fire."

Smith wound up having one of the best performances at USC's pro day -- including an impressive 4.47 in the 40-yard dash that had one Giants scout exclaiming: "We didn't know you were faster than Steve!" -- and lined up a few interviews with teams. He visited the Bears, Seahawks, Falcons and the Jets in recent weeks and has climbed the ladder from a probable undrafted free agent to a player who could possibly go to a team in the middle rounds.

The Jets expressed enough interest to reportedly bring him to Florham Park. Perhaps his speed and his bloodline have caught enough of the Giants' eyes that they'll select him at some point. A speedy outside linebacker is probably on general manager Jerry Reese's shopping list this weekend.

"That would be awesome," Smith said of the possibility of becoming a Giants like Steve. "But you never know. The chances are 1 in 32, so it's not something I think about too often."

Malcolm Smith may have followed in his big brother's footsteps in his career, from high school to USC and now, likely, into the NFL, but the two are very different. They obviously play different positions on different sides of the ball. Steve is a 5-11, 195-pound receiver for the Giants while Malcolm, the "little" brother, is a 6-1, 226-pound linebacker.

"He always wore the skinny pants when he was little and I was in the husky section," Malcolm said. "We've always had different body types."

Despite the size difference compared with Steve, there have been some suggestions that Malcolm Smith with his speed could be converted to a safety. He said he hopes to be a linebacker in the NFL and he tries to model his game on one of his USC mentors, Keith Rivers. He may need to bulk up to play that position but scouts see solid special teams possibilities in him right away.

Steve Smith attended the combine and was taken by the Giants in the second round of the 2007 draft. Clearly Malcolm's path to the NFL is taking a route with less fanfare. And inevitably, whether he is drafted by a team or signed as an undrafted free agent at some point, he'll be referred to as "Steve Smith's little brother."

Unlike the combine snub, Malcolm isn't at all bitter about that.

"I don't see it as a negative thing," he said. "Obviously, I have to prove myself in my ability to be mentioned with him. And he says the same thing. 'Don't let me down, brother! Don't let the name down!' It's a little pressure, but it's good."

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