Northern Illinois University’s record-breaking defensive end Sutton Smith is joining an NFL team known for its aggressive play on defense. Smith was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the sixth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday.
Smith passed on his senior season of eligibilty to turn pro. He was recruited to NIU as a running back but he was moved to defense after making a hard tackle during spring ball of 2016. After that he kept making tackle after tackle and making life miserable for opposing offensive linemen and quarterbacks.
Last fall as a junior Smith led the nation and he set an NIU record with 15 sacks. He also had 26.5 tackles-for-loss and nine quarterback hits. In addition to those numbers Smith also forced four fumbles and he blocked two kicks.
As a sophomore during the 2017 season Smith led the nation with 29.5 tackles-for-loss and he set a then NIU record with 14 sacks. He led the nation with 87 quarterback pressures.
Smith was named the Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year in both his sophomore and junior seasons. As a junior smith was also named the MAC recipient of the Vern Smith Leadership Award which goes to the top player in the conference.
Smith dropped to the sixth round because NFL scouts say he lacks size (6’0, 234lbs.), strength and length. Despite excelling at defensive end at NIU Smith is expected to be used as a situational edge rusher at outside linebacker in the NFL.
Smith is the second player from NIU to be selected in the draft this year. Offensive Tackle Max Scharping was taken in the second round by the Houston Texans.