“That’s why I have so much wood in here,” Spielman jokes.One of his first acts when he became GM in 2012 was trading up to select Smith with the 29th pick.It is Smith’s ability to be everywhere and do everything, Spielman notes, that is the fulcrum of the Vikings’ defensive scheme.Spielman expresses mild disgust that it took until last year for Pro Football Focus’s top-rated safety of 2015 to make his first Pro Bowl (and as an injury replacement at that).“And as we came up with our ideal,” Spielman says, “we found we were describing Harrison Smith.” Back in his office the GM picks up a silver Vikings pen, the same kind he gives to every rookie who signs a contract with Minnesota.
“He just hits the hell out of you, makes plays, then packs up his suitcase and goes home,” the GM says.“All the ancillary things that come with it, he couldn’t give a rat’s ass about.” Spielman recalls when he hired Mike Zimmer as his coach, in 2014, and the two men sat down to discuss what they would try to build.They talked about the type of players they wanted on the field, and the type of men they wanted off of it.When the Vikings said Smith was on board, the station declined—he wasn’t high-level enough. “I guess he’s been our well-kept secret.” The Harrison Smith origin story begins on the front lawn of his parents’ Knoxville home, with 13 aristocrat pear trees spread out in a line like yard markers.In third grade Harrison was faced with a choice: He could stay on the travel soccer team or begin his first year of tackle football. He would often come home from soccer practice, put on a football uniform and helmet, head out to the front lawn and spin off of or smash himself into those 13 pear trees.
A month later, as the Vikings’ veterans drove to training camp in Mankato, Smith instead rode the bus with the rookies. Andrew Sendejo offers this metaphor to explain why his fellow safety—who after big plays just brushes himself off and walks back to the huddle—doesn’t attract attention: When your car starts every morning, you don’t celebrate. After one game last season a national radio station asked Minnesota’s p.r.