Kyle Ringo
Kyle Ringo
The same question has come to mind a handful of times over the past few months during the countdown to one of the most over-hyped days in sports this week -- the NFL draft.

Since when did former Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith become a problem child with a drug problem?

Almost every story that mentions Smith these days refers to him as a risky draft pick.

One recent article referred to Smith as "talented but troubled." Another called into question whether Smith was worth the risk as a high draft pick because of his "character issues."

Each time I read this stuff, I find myself wondering if any of these folks has ever spent any time with Smith or even talked to him.

This miscreant they`re writing about is not the same guy I`ve covered over the past five years, including every game of his career.

I`ve interviewed Smith dozens of times and had plenty of off-the-record conversations with him. He`s down-to-earth with a great sense of humor and a love for the game. He never has struck me as a guy living on the edge, or even as someone coaches needed to be concerned about.

His minor in possession of alcohol tickets and failed drug tests for marijuana use don`t even make the top-five list of offenders during his time in the program.

Smith almost looks like a model citizen when compared with some who have been given a chance at a free education and a better life here in the recent past.Three of his teammates were charged with felony assault at different times, one of them entering an apartment to hit a man in the head with a rock. One of them is now in jail, accused of sexual assault. Another teammate proved to be a purse snatcher and others have been arrested or cited for infractions such as DUI, more serious than Smith`s missteps.

I get it. It`s understandable that billionaire owners want to protect themselves against bringing a guy into their organization who might be the next Pacman Jones or Michael Vick.

And NFL coaches don`t want to be remembered as the guy who drafted a player when there were flags suggesting Smith could be a problem child.

To a certain extent, their concerns are valid. Smith is a young man who has proven to be one who will jump at an opportunity to have a good time. That pretty much describes me and all my friends when I was his age.

But the real worry is, Who knows what he will be like when he gets some real money and has access to all the trappings of the NFL lifestyle?

Maybe a typical college life of dating and partying evolves into problems that eventually lead to the player and the organization being front page news for all the wrong reasons.

But maybe not. In fact, I would say if you look at Smith`s entire track record, the answer is probably not.

I think Jimmy Smith is more Chad Ocho Cinco than Plaxico Burress or Brandon Marshall.

The shame here is Smith is being cast as a thug when the evidence really shows he`s no different than many of his peers and teammates.

He studied hard, played hard and partied hard while making his way through college. He graduated from CU in December with a degree in sociology.

"Jimmy has owned up to some of the mistakes that he has made in the past," his agent Drew Rosenhaus told me in March at CU`s pro timing day. "He hasn`t hid from them. He hasn`t run from them. He`s embraced them. He`s addressed them. I`ve been an agent for 23 years and he`s as good a guy as you could possibly want to be around."

Now obviously Rosenhaus has a dog in this fight. So we need another opinion from someone in a position to know how much of a headache Smith has or hasn`t been over the past five years. Is he a boozing party animal living life in the fast lane?

Last week when CU men`s basketball star Alec Burks was announcing his intention to enter the NBA draft, I made my way across the room to ask athletic director Mike Bohn if there was something more serious or sinister about which I should be aware when it comes to Smith`s time in Boulder.

Bohn said he knows of no reason why Smith`s name should be redflagged in NFL war rooms this week other than what has been previously reported. 

My gut tells me when the clock starts ticking on draft day for those teams interested in a cornerback that all of the alleged character issues Smith has will be far diminished by his playmaking ability on the field.

The reality is that is what NFL teams really care about on draft day. Can this guy help us win games, make the playoffs and possibly win the Super Bowl?

Let`s face it, there is a long list of guys with far more on their rap sheets than Smith who were drafted on the first day and have enjoyed long careers in the league.

If someone were asking me to make the million dollar decision of whether to draft Smith later this week. I`d say take him. He`s a good guy getting a bad rap. You could definitely do worse.