- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- It's always been like this for Geno Smith.
The New York Jets rookie has exuded a certain calmness during the fourth quarter of games -- never letting the moment get too big for him as he tried to lead his team to a victory like he did Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons.
It is the same steadiness he exhibited as a youngster on Christmas morning. Granted, unwrapping packages is not as complex as dissecting defenses, but he never let his emotions get too high.
"My mom thought it was weird," Smith said Wednesday. "I never really got [excited] on Christmas when I was a kid. That's just how I was all the time."
His even-keeled demeanor has played a large role in Smith leading the league with three game-winning drives through the first five weeks of the year. Smith has delivered in the fourth quarter in each of the Jets wins so far, including two last-second wins against the Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"It's just the way I have been growing up. I don't really get nervous, especially in football," Smith said. "It's just something that I love to do. I just look at it as if I was playing in the backyard playing sandlot, you wouldn't get nervous then. I walk into the game, I feel prepared. I'm never really nervous when I'm prepared."
Monday night marked Smith's finest performance in the NFL thus far as he guided the Jets to a come-from-behind win against the Falcons. Trailing 28-27 with 1:54 left, Smith went 4-of-4 for 37 yards and added in an eight-yard run to put the Jets in position for the game-winning field goal. He completed 16 of 20 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns Monday as the Jets improved to 3-2.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, whose team will try to stop Smith on Sunday, called him "somewhat of a flatliner", meaning he evens off and does not let his emotions swing. He believed Smith's personality is "geared toward delivering in those moments." Jets linebacker Calvin Pace echoed those thoughts.
"He's even-keeled. He's never too up, he's never too down," Pace said. "The thing I like about Geno, he never gets down on himself. When he makes a mistake, he's the same guy. Even when he's doing well, you look at him, expecting more emotion, but he's just smooth."
Smith said he cannot remember the last time he was ever nervous on the football field, and that stems from his love of the game. Whether the Jets win or lose, he is going to be the same guy afterward. It was that way when he was younger, and he tries to keep it that way now as he guides an NFL team.
"The one thing I've learned is never let the game change who you are, good or bad," Smith said. "So I'm never going to change. I'm never going to get beside myself."
The rookie did acknowledge there is one thing that gets him pumped.
"Life. I'm big on life," Smith said. "Waking up every morning excites me."
2dEric D. Williams
2dEric D. Williams