Cardinals’ Lecitus Smith grateful for adversity he’s faced in Year 1

Dec 10, 2022, 11:14 AM

Arizona Cardinals OL Lecitus Smith (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)...

Arizona Cardinals OL Lecitus Smith (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

PHOENIX — This season has been a roller coaster ride full of twists, dips and turns for the Arizona Cardinals.

On top of the team not meeting the high expectations it set out to achieve, Arizona has seen a player tragically die, two coaches depart over off-the-field issues and too many key injuries to list in this space.

Even for 10-plus-year veterans on the team like Kelvin Beachum, the season has been something he hasn’t experienced since entering the league in 2012.

So for a rookie trying to make it in the league, having all the added distractions in addition to the grind of being a first-year pro can be an overwhelming avalanche of things to process.

It’s been a whirlwind in particular for rookie offensive lineman Lecitus Smith, who has gone from someone not expecting to touch the field in 2022 to earning significant playing time in three of the team’s last four matchups, earning his first two NFL starts along the way.

The added playing time has come at a cost, though.

Arizona has experienced a nearly complete overhaul along the starting offensive line due to injuries. Couple that with the firing of offensive line coach and run game coordinator Sean Kugler for allegedly groping a woman in Mexico City, and the room has faced with more challenges than others.

There are clearly better ways to start an NFL career, but for Smith, who can play guard or center, it’s all about taking the good with the bad and pushing forward.

Because at the end of the day, what else is there to do?

“I think everything that has happened from OTAs or even training camp, it’s shown that everybody that’s on this team can battle through adversity because we’ve been through some stuff,” Smith told Cardinals Corner, an Arizona Sports podcast, last week. “But you’ve yet to see anybody just lay down and throw in the towel or anything like that. That’s from veterans, guys that’ve been in the league a few years and even down to us rookies.

“We go to work every day. We’re just going to keep fighting. … laying down is not an option. Yes, the season isn’t going the way we’d like. Yes, people are saying different things. … We’re not going to stop fighting.”

That’s not to say it hasn’t been a grind for Smith and the other Cardinals rookies. Luckily for the lineman, he has a couple of veterans in Beachum and Rodney Hudson to lean on.

Beachum has provided that mentorship on the field and acts as a father figure to Smith, while the injured Hudson has lent his voice time and time again to the rookie.

Their knowledge, especially Hudson’s advice to Smith about playing center, is just another weapon Smith can use over the course of not only the final five games of 2022, but also well into the future.

“You can’t go out and try to be somebody you’re not, try to do something you’re not,” Beachum said Monday when asked about his advice to the young Cardinals. “You got to execute the play that’s called, play it like you need to play it. Play with high energy, play with high effort.

“But at that same time, just make sure you take part in what you do you. I don’t think it’s about doing something that’s extraordinary, just doing the ordinary very, very well at the end of the day.”

Smith’s road to get to the Cardinals included a position change from tight end to offensive lineman his freshman year at Virginia Tech before eventually watching his name drop to the sixth round of 2022 NFL Draft after he expected to go earlier.

In each of those instances, Smith relied on the work ethic instilled in him by his father, Oscar Smith.

And with there being a real shot at the team getting an extended look at the rookie over the next five games, Smith is determined to prove he can be an important piece to the puzzle in Arizona’s future plans for an offensive line room that is headed for change.

“I definitely want to be a mainstay starter type of guy,” Smith said when asked where he wants to be five years down the line. “Lord willing, I’m still in Arizona. I’d love to spend the rest of my career here. I want there to be no indecision as far as ‘I wonder who the starting center is going to be next year?’ I want people to know I’m your guy. I want to be that next year and so on and so on.

“I know it’s going to take work day in and day out, especially in this league. But I want to be that guy.”

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