Smith has fashioned himself into a special-teams ace in his fourth season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and also serves as a reserve defensive back when they need him in that capacity.
It's been nearly 40 years since an Eagle last appeared on football's biggest stage. Louis Breeden did it most recently in 1982, in Super Bowl XVI as a member of the Bengals. Cincinnati lost to San Francisco that day.
Coming up around 520 on @ABC11_WTVD - I spoke with former @NCCU_Football star Ryan Smith, who's set to become just the third Eagle to play in football's biggest game. Neither Richard Sligh nor Louis Breeden played on the winning team, so Ryan can become the first Eagle champ pic.twitter.com/LvJZ95MVch— Mark Armstrong (@ArmstrongABC11) February 3, 2021
Richard Sligh is the only other NCCU player to suit up in a Super Bowl. He was a reserve defensive tackle for the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II in 1968. Oakland fell to Green Bay in that game.
That being the extent of school history, Smith has a huge opportunity to be the first Eagle to actually be crowned a Super Bowl champion. Whatever the result, he'll be proudly repping NC Central on Sunday.
"It's a big deal in that aspect as far as like, a lot of people don't make it out of Central, or small schools period, so for me to be in this situation, it's a big thing. Me coming from Central, putting them on notice like you know we got dudes who can ball too. It's a big deal," Smith told ABC11 Wednesday.
There is actually a second Eagle on Tampa as well, though he's not on the active roster. Nick Leverett, a former offensive lineman for NC Central is on the practice squad for the Bucs. Smith said he and Leverett remain very close and play video games together all the time.