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Kendall Smith shining bright early with the Commanders



Kendall Smith shines with Commanders
Jan 2, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; DUPLICATE***Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Kendall Smith (7) intercepts the ball from Mississippi State Bulldogs wide receiver Rufus Harvey (82) in the second quarter during the 2023 ReliaQuest Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Kendall Smith signed with the Commanders as an Undrafted Free Agent.

The Pro Illini series is all about Illini athletes that have made it to the professional ranks. Because football season is upon us, Pro Illini will initially focus on Illini football. The Fighting Illini currently have 29 players in the NFL. The Cincinnati Bengals, Minnesota Vikings, and Washington Commanders have three Illini players on their rosters. The Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants, and New York Jets have two.

Smith was part of a loaded secondary at Illinois.

Illinois standout defensive back Kendall Smith is proof that the program is working. Smith, a three-star recruit from Bolingbrook, signed as a wide receiver. After one season, he transitioned to defensive back and became vital to the Illinois secondary in 2022. Smith sat behind many talented defensive backs. However, he took advantage of his opportunity in 2022. Kendall was second on the team in interceptions. Despite not being drafted, the Washington Commanders signed Smith as an undrafted free agent:

Smith and Martin are off to fantastic starts in Washington.

Kendall Smith is not by himself in Washington. Jartavius Martin was a second-round draft pick of the Commanders. Both rookies are faring well so far with the Commanders. They had an interception in their 29-28 preseason victory over the Baltimore Ravens. Smith was an older prospect, the likeliest reason he wasn’t drafted. Despite his age, there is an upside to Smith. He has receiver ball skills and can cover the deep half like a safety or a cornerback covering an individual receiver.

Smith can contribute on special teams while he develops as a quality defensive back. His size could make him an asset in the run game. Smith is a natural at tracking the ball in space because of his receiving skills. His skill set makes him valuable to the Commanders. Expect him to stick around.

Armchair Illini is a comprehensive site dedicated to covering University of Illinois Athletics owned and operated by Alex Kyi. Dante Pryor has been writing about College Football for years on Saturday Blitz and is now the Lead Football Author for Armchair Illini.