For N.C. Central University alumni Ryan Smith, his dream of winning the Super Bowl came to full fruition on Sunday, when the Tampa Bay Buccanneers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9.
Smith became the first NCCU Eagle in school history to win the Super Bowl. The defensive back played at NCCU from 2012-2015 where he started in 42 games.
“It’s a big deal in that aspect as far as like, a lot of people don’t make it out of Central, or small schools period,” Smith told ABC11 Wednesday.
”So for me to be in this situation, it’s a big thing. Me coming from Central, putting them on notice like you know we got dudes who can ball too. It’s a big deal.”
He finished his collegiate career holding the school record for 168 solo tackles with a 28.1 kickoff return yard average. Ryan also ranked sixth in tackles and tied for 11th in passes defended with seven interceptions and 24 pass breakups.
As a senior, Smith finished with a team-best 11 passes defended, ranking him third in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. He also led the conference and ranked 10th in the nation with 28.1 in kick return yard average. His efforts led the Eagles to their second straight MEAC championship.
In 2016, the Prince George’s County, Md. native was selected with the 108th pick in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
For Smith, the transition in the league wasn’t easy, but with time and experience, he grew both as a player and a person.
“My transition into the league was challenging. There was a lot I didn’t know coming in,” explained Ryan. “I always believed I could play in the NFL, (I) just needed the opportunity. My time in Tampa has been great. I’ve grown a lot as a football player and a person.”
In his five seasons with the Bucs, he has been a consistent member of the special teams unit. Since entering the league, he has had 117 tackles, 12 pass deflections, and four forced fumbles.
Smith is only the third Eagle in school history to play in the Super Bowl after Las Vegas Raiders’ Richard Sligh in Super Bowl two and Cincinnatti Bengals’ Louis Breeden in Super Bowl 16.
Being the first of few people to win the big game was an amazing experience for Smith. The 27-year old champion will remember this moment in his life forever.
“Winning the Super bowl is an indescribable feeling–Playing with (the) G.O.A.T! (referring to Buccaneer’s quarterback Tom Brady)”.
“Winning in our home stadium in front of my friends and family is a moment I’ll never forget.”