Extremely hard-working and uber-versatile. That’s how New England Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith would describe himself.
?(The Patriots are) definitely getting the hardest worker that?s ever come through Gillette Stadium,” the 25-year-old said. “That?s what I believe in. That?s all I know. I was never the highest recruited high school player, never labeled the best tight end in college, and even at this level, I just had to carve out a path for my own self. That?s what kept me going. That?s what kept me in that weight room an extra 30 minutes more than other guys. That just kept me going. Staying after practice on the JUGS (machine) every day.
“That?s all I know. That?s what I believe in. There?s not a guy, when I walk in that building, that can outwork me. And I?m sure the Patriots — that?s what they believe in. So just being around a lot of guys with that same mindset, it?s just a great feeling to have. To know that everybody over there breathes success and stands for the same thing, man, they?re getting a hell of a worker.”
From an on-field perspective, Smith touted his ability to play multiple roles and handle various responsibilities. Primarily an in-line tight end with the Tennessee Titans, he also lined up in the slot, out wide and even as a running back, taking six handoffs over the last two seasons.
One of the best in the league at generating yards after the catch, Smith is coming off his most productive season, setting career highs in targets (65), receptions (41), receiving yards (448) and touchdown catches (eight) in 2020 while also adding one rushing touchdown.
“I just feel like I?m the most versatile tight end in this league,” Smith said. “That?s really not up for other people to tell me or not — I know what I can do. I know what I can do once the ball is in my hands, and I just feel that there?s no tight end in the league better than me at that. So I?m just going to go out and prove that.”
The Patriots overhauled their struggling tight end group this week by adding both Smith and Hunter Henry — the top two free agents at the position. Smith said he’s excited to see what he and Henry can accomplish together in an offense that’s thrived out of two-tight end sets in the past.
“I?ve seen the success that (the Patriots) had with two-tight end sets years ago, and it just shows how creative they can be,” said Smith, who has yet to speak with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. “Me and Hunter — I?m a competitor, and I?m sure he?s a hell of a competitor, as well, so just being able to go in there and always try to outwork each other is only going to make us better. So I?m looking forward to it. I?m excited for the opportunity, and I?m just ready to get to it. A lot of teams really don?t lean on two-tight end sets the way the Patriots do, but the Patriots win. That?s what they?ve been known for doing in the past couple of years, so I?m ready to get this thing going.”
Asked why he chose to join with the Patriots mere hours into the NFL’s legal tampering period, Smith referenced head coach Bill Belichick.
?Coach Belichick saw it,” Smith said. “He had a certain belief in me, and I?ve got all the respect in the world for him. My plan since Day 1 is to come through that door and just work. That?s all I know. That?s what?s gotten me here. I?m extremely blessed, and I?m just excited for the opportunity, man.”