BOULDER, Colo. - Jimmy Smith was well aware that 13 NFL scouts, representing 12 different teams, were at Folsom Field to watch the Buffaloes' game against Hawaii last Saturday.
It was highest number of NFL scouts in attendance at a CU home game since the late 1990s.
"I saw them when I was coming out of the tunnel," said Smith, who tested the NFL draft waters last winter before deciding he would return to Boulder for his senior year. "It is kind of crazy how many of them there were."
Smith said his primary focus was on "playing his game". But he was using his chance to impress NFL scouts as a source of extra motivation.
"You have no choice but to think about it because it is obviously like an audition for a job," Smith said. "In the back of your head, you are like, 'I have to make sure I am on it every play; I can't take a play off'."
On the second play of the game, Hawaii wide receiver Kealoha Pilares caught a pass and appeared to have clear sailing to the end zone. But Smith came darting across the field and tackled him at the three-yard line. Pilares is known to have exceptional speed.
"I think it let them know that we weren't going to give up anything easy," Smith said. "I wanted them to know they were going to have to work for everything."
Defensive coordinator Ron Collins said Smith's touchdown saving tackle was just as impressive on film.
"That was a big time play," Collins added. "And it was big time because it gave us new life down there on the goal line and we were able to get a goal line stand. For him to be able to do that was huge for our defense."
The Buffaloes limited Hawaii to 13 points. The Warriors' offense averaged 33.5 points in their first two games against Southern Cal and Army.
Opposing teams don't test Smith too often. But through three games he has still managed to record 12 tackles and two pass break ups.
Smith will be provided another great opportunity to impress NFL scouts when he matches up against Georgia standout A.J. Green a week from Saturday. ESPN ranks Green as the top wide receiver prospect for the 2011 NFL Draft, and fourth best overall prospect.
"I am definitely looking forward to it," Smith said of his upcoming challenge. "It is like my sophomore year when I faced Dez Bryant."
Green was ruled ineligible for the Bulldogs' first four games because he sold a bowl jersey for $1,000 to a person deemed to be an agent. Green's first game back will be against the Buffaloes.