Early Influence: Rick Smith

Before training camps kick off, a number of players and some coaches will pay tribute to people who helped them make it to the NFL as part of the AFC South Blog’s summer series: “Early Influence.”

Rick Smith, Texans general manager

“When I got to Denver as a young coach, we won a bunch of games that first year I was there in 96. We ended up losing to Jacksonville. It’s 15 years in the league now and I get it, but you come into the league as a young hotshot coach, you win 13 in a row like we did and you think it’s pretty easy. When we lost that playoff game to Jacksonville, I just remember how distraught I was. I’m at home, and I’m lying on the couch watching TV and the phone rings. It’s 9:30 at night after the game. And it’s Mike Shanahan.

“And I will never forget, he said ‘Rick, I just wanted to let you know, I thought you did an outstanding job this year, we’re close, al we have to do is have a couple tweaks in the offseason and we’ll win it next year. I remember hanging the phone up thinking what kind of presence does this guy have, and what kind of leader he is to pick up the phone and call a defensive assistant. I’m the low man on the totem pole. That just impressed me so much.

“It got me thinking about leadership. And then he gave me the opportunity to move over to the front office when Jack Elway retired. He put me in the position and he exposed me to everything I needed to be exposed to to ready myself for this job. I can pull out a file of quotes and meeting notes that I have taken from him.

“And I’ve made phone calls like that and I try to promote leadership and grow great people. Leadership is action, it’s not position. I’ve learned a lot from Mike.”