Callahan said he’s never coached an offensive lineman quite like Smith, the 21-year-old making the switch from right to left tackle in his second NFL season.
Smith’s work ethic and willingness to learn are almost as exciting to Callahan as the seemingly unlimited talent of the 2011 No. 9 overall pick. It’s typical for Smith and Callahan to stay after practice to work on the finer points of playing left tackle, such as footwork, as they did for about 20 minutes after Thursday morning’s walkthrough.
“More than anything, he loves football and wants to be great,” Callahan said. “All the motivation comes from within. That’s a great thing.
“He’s willing. He wants to absorb as much information as possible. He’s all ears. He wants to try something new to help his game. We’re just trying to build his toolbox, as we say.”
Not many tackles have possessed better physical tools than Smith. He’s lean by offensive lineman standards with long arms, huge hands, combining rare power and quickness.
Former Cowboys offensive line coach Hudson Houck, who coached a few Hall of Famers, said he’d never worked with a more talented offensive lineman. Callahan hasn’t had one like Smith, either.
“It’s just a matter of experience right now, but he has an innate ability to play the game,” Callahan said. “He has good toughness, he’s smart and he’s got want-to. Those are all positive traits that I like for the room and love for our team, because at some point in time as his career progresses he’ll certainly be a leader for our football team.”