Tanzel Smart accepts invitation to play in Reese’s Senior Bowl

Susan Fanelli, Sports [email protected]

For the first time since 2014, a Tulane football player has been invited to compete against top football players around the country in the Reese’s Senior Bowl.

Tulane’s football Twitter page announced on Wednesday that senior defensive tackle Tanzel Smart will be attending the Senior Bowl in January, the 46th player in Tulane history to receive the honor.

“I was just so happy …,” Smart said. “It was truly a blessing. Words can’t explain how I felt …”

Smart was a strength of the Green Wave’s defense during its 2016 season. He made 56 tackles, 13.5 for loss, and contributed 4.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. Throughout his career, the 6’1”, 305-pound defensive tackle had 191 tackles and 9.5 sacks.

Smart was a three-year letterman and named to the all-district team during his time at Scotlandville High in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and was rated as a three-star recruit before being recruiting by Tulane. Starting as a true freshman in 2013, Smart made 14 tackles, an amount that more than tripled his sophomore year when he made 47 tackles and two sacks.

Smart was named to the first team All-American Athletic Conference in 2015 and most recently was given 2016 all-conference honors along with senior linebacker Nico Marley and junior cornerback Parry Nickerson.

The Reese’s Senior Bowl, held in Mobile, Alabama, has been played every year since 1950. Specifically for seniors, it has featured many of the top college athletes in the country, some of whom go on to become top players in the National Football League.

The players are split into teams regionally by northern and southern schools — the teams are aptly named north and south — and are voluntarily coached by the full staff of an NFL team.

“I can’t be too uptight,” Smart said. “Just go out there and relax, do what I know I can do, and just compete against those guys because I know they’re good too.”

Famous players that participated in the Senior Bowl include Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Namath and Brett Favre, as well as other talents like Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Famous coaches such as Mike Ditka and Bill Belichick have also competed in the Senior Bowl as head coaches.

Smart is the first Tulane player to accept a Senior Bowl invite since 2014 when current Washington Redskins wide receiver Ryan Grant played. Grant was taken in the fifth round of the NFL draft that year, and some experts predict that Smart will go in the same round or higher.

“[The Senior Bowl] is big,” Smart said. “This could bring you from undrafted to drafted, so this is probably one of the biggest steps of my football career right now.”

Smart expressed gratitude to the program that signed him and allowed him to play football.

“It’s truly a blessing,” Smart said. “A lot of schools didn’t take a chance on me, and Tulane took a chance on me. It all worked out for the best.”

The Senior Bowl will air at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 at Ladd Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama on the NFL Network.

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