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Why Geno Smith Is One Of Pete Carroll's 'All-Time Favorite Guys'

Geno Smith has made a strong impression on Pete Carroll during his time in Seattle, and the past few weeks have further illustrated why Carroll holds his quarterback in such high esteem.

Quarterback Geno Smith drops back during early warmups as head coach Pete Carroll playfully "blitzes".
Quarterback Geno Smith drops back during early warmups as head coach Pete Carroll playfully "blitzes".

As a 15-year-old kid growing up on the other side of the country, Geno Smith had an affinity for Pete Carroll's USC team that went undefeated before losing an all-time classic against Texas in the Rose Bowl, so much so that he got a little emotional watching that game.

"I was sitting there watching the game, I felt like I was part of the team, I actually dropped a couple tears," Smith said. "I always wanted to play for Coach Carroll, I was hoping I could get a USC offer coming out of high school, didn't really happen."

Smith didn't end up at USC, instead starring at West Virginia before becoming a second-round pick in the 2013 draft, but he eventually did get a chance to play for Carroll, joining the Seahawks as a free agent in 2019. And in Smith's five seasons in Seattle, three of which were spent as Russell Wilson's backup before he became the starter and Pro-Bowler in 2022, the bond between quarterback and coach has become one that both hold dear.

"I love his story," Carroll said. "He's taught me so much, and I admire him for the way he's handled the competitive part of this thing. He's taught us about belief in yourself and how powerful that is. As clear as an illustration of anybody that I can ever remember. Forget this year or last year, he was the same guy every time out and just kept hanging. I probably didn't give him enough credit, because I probably didn't believe it. Maybe he was kind of faking it, he was saying the right stuff, he meant it man. He was on it, and he proved it. That's what last year was all about. He proved that his confidence in himself and belief and conviction was real, and he came through in a huge way. He's playing terrific football for us."

After two seasons as a starter to start his career, and four more as a backup for the Jets, Giants and Chargers, Smith finally got his chance to play for Carroll when he signed in 2019, and while it took him several years to become a starter, it didn't take long to realize he was playing for the right coach.

"He's one of the best motivators I've ever been around, he's one of the coaches who truly believes in hard work, so when I got here, I knew that if I worked hard enough, maybe I'd get a shot," Smith said. "That's the thing about this place, the opportunity is there for the guys who work hard and who compete. For me, my mindset is to continue to work and try to better each and every day. I think he likes that; he likes guys who continue to push and better themselves."

And for Carroll, these past few weeks have only increased the already high opinion he has of his quarterback. When Smith injured his groin in practice leading up to Seattle's Week 14 game against the 49ers, Smith did all he could to try to get back for that game, then the following week he returned to practice, albeit on a limited basis, and was well enough to be declared active for Seattle's Monday night game against the Eagles, but the decision was made to start Drew Lock and give Smith another week to recover. Smith thought he was well enough to play that game, and he wanted to play, but rather than sulk on the sideline about the decision, he spent the next three hours doing everything he could to support Drew Lock, who ended up leading a dramatic comeback victory.

Smith then returned last week, and led the Seahawks to another comeback win, leading a touchdown drive in the final minutes just as Lock had the week before. And the way Smith handled being held out, and how he played when he came back, all of that helped illustrate why Carroll calls Smith "one of my all-time favorite guys."

"We've been through a lot," Carroll said. "We've had a lot of discussions about dealing with the challenge of (the injury) and trying to get back and what's the timeline? How much should we do? How much could you take? All of those conversations every day three weeks ago as we started it, and then holding him back in week two to try to see how far he could come back without any real activity, testing him on game night and all of that stuff, and he was so frustrated. It killed me to have to go through that, but fortunately it worked out. He came back and had a great week last week and played a phenomenal football game and won the game.

"He's back now, just checking in with him today. There has been a lot that's happened. Fortunately, because of our background and that we've been connected and communicated so much for so many years, even though it was hard, it wasn't hard, nobody was yelling at anybody. We just had to work through and kind of hug our way through it and make the right choices and make the tough choices, and just keep hanging, which Geno (Smith) is famous for. He did. He did exactly that, and when the time was right, and he was ready to go, look what he did. It's a real memorable span of time there with one of my all-time favorite guys. I'm glad we made it through it and loved the success he was able to show last week."

Seahawks at practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Wash. on Dec. 28, 2023.

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