That’s My Dawg
Birds 1st Rounders Smith, Carter Have Each Other's Backs At Intro Presser
An evening of celebration occurred Friday at the NovaCare Complex, as Eagles rookies Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith – two of Georgia’s premier defenders from its national championship team – sat shoulder-to-shoulder at the podium.
Carter, the preeminent interior disruptor of his class and consensus top-ranked player, saw his tumble – a byproduct of off-field transgressions – come to a screeching halt at pick No. 9 when the Eagles moved up a spot in the pecking order via a trade with the Chicago Bears.
Carter, named first team All-SEC, enters the pro ranks as an instant-impact prospect, one with few shortcomings to his game.
His power, quickness, and first-step explosion figure to fill the immense void created after defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, who accounted for 11 sacks in 2023, signed with the San Francisco 49ers in free agency.
One of the issues that impacted Carter’s slide stemmed from his involvement in a fatal January car crash, one that claimed the lives of teammate Devin Willock, 20, and 24-year-old recruiting analyst Chandler LeCroy.
Another potentially harmful drawback included his underwhelming Pro Day performance, where he showed up nine pounds heavier than his recorded weight at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
While Carter stoically fielded questions during the introduction, Smith – drafted 30th on Thursday – in many ways reprised the role he played Athens as Carter’s compadre.
In Athens, Carter occupied blockers and kept Smith clean and free to roam the second level and swarm opposing signal callers.
Sure, that’s Carter job, but he was also a consistent shield – for not only Smith, but every other second-level defender on the Bulldog defense.
In contrast to Carter’s reserved, almost calculated, demeanor at the Eagles’ press conference, Smith showcased the same leadership, enthusiasm, and devotion to his craft that he had exhibited during his four-year run in Athens.
He also appeared to alleviate some of the pressure and attention surrounding his controversial teammate.
Similar to other Georgia pipeline products – who often allude to the brotherhood, relationship-building, and general connectivity – Smith delighted in protecting his teammate.
“I just always stood up for him, just because it’s not him,” Smith said Friday of Carter’s questionable character.
“I know Jalen. I know JC. I call him JC; I don’t even call him Jalen. I call him JC 88,” Smith said, referencing Carter’s jersey number at Georgia. “JC is just one of those guys that you can really count on – to not only do his job, but he’s going to do his job plus more and then come dap you up and get everybody hyped up.
“That’s just the type of player he is. He’s one of the best guys to be around, to hang around, and I can’t wait for him to take me to dinner.”
The unwavering support from Smith, who already displayed the intangibles required of an eventual team captain, wasn’t lost on Carter.
In fact, Smith showed the same traits on that podium that initially gravitated Carter to him upon arriving in Athens as a five-star recruit.
“It means a lot,” Carter said. “Like I said, when I first came to Georgia, I looked up to him. Even before I came to Georgia, I saw a couple highlights of practice where he was doing 1-on-1s, and he’s killing them guys out there.
“And I’ve just always been looking up to him, and just being able to play with him right now in the league is a dream come true.”
– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.
Watch to the “Inside The Birds NFL Draft Recap” on Jalen Carter:
Watch to the “Inside The Birds NFL Draft Recap” on Nolan Smith: