The New Mexico Stars already had dipped into the Lobo alumni football pool this offseason to re-sign receiver Roland Bruno and linebacker Landrick Brody. Then they acquired quarterback Donovan Porterie.
Now, first-year coach Dominic Bramante officially has landed an ex-UNM player with NFL experience.
Marcus Smith, 28, a wide receiver who earned All-Mountain West first-team honors for the Lobos in 2007 and was a former special teams standout with coach John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens, signed a deal with the Lone Star Football League team Wednesday night.
Approximately 30 Stars backers soaked in the festivities at a team mixer at Ahh Sushi Rio in Rio Rancho. Also signing Wednesday night was receiver Dave Lewis, who played with Porterie on the Green Bay Blizzard of the Indoor Football League.
“We’re interested in having a great team here,” Bramante announced to the gathering. “We’re interested in having a historic team. That’s not noise, that’s a fact. Now we want people to jump on the Stars’ bandwagon.”
Usually it’s a member of the scouting department or the head coach who initiates a football contact, but in the case of Smith it was Porterie.
“We always work out together,” Smith said. “And when he told me he was possibly going to sign with the Stars, I got in touch with the coach and talked to him a little bit.
“And since he knew coach Harbaugh, I talked to him a little bit about him. Then I talked with coach (Bramante) again for a couple more hours. From there I knew it would be a great fit.”
Bramante said his close relationship with the Super Bowl-winning Harbaugh played a huge role in getting Smith for the Stars.
“I talked to Harbaugh about him,” Bramante said. “He said (Smith) is an outstanding guy, really strong and that he really liked him. Because Harbs talked so well about him, that was the impetus on why I wanted to sign him.
“And he’s got a burning desire to get back to the league. That’s also what I liked about him.”
Smith, a 6-foot-1, fourth-round draft choice of the Ravens in 2008, played in seven games for Baltimore his first season, missed his second with a torn ACL and returned in 2010 to be a special teams terror with 21 tackles in 14 games.
“I wanted to play special teams so I could be the hammer,” he said. “I wanted them to feel my presence.”
The next summer, though, he was one of Baltimore’s last cuts.
“We had five (receiver) All-Pros, and I was the sixth man,” Smith said.
Smith didn’t have any regular-season catches with Baltimore, but it’s not that he didn’t play offense. He said he had the bad timing to play with quarterback Joe Flacco while he also was a rookie trying to feel his way.
“As the third receiver, I didn’t get the ball (thrown to me) that much,” Smith said of the 2008 season. “He would look at one, then two, and then to a check-down. That was the main thing, what really killed it for me. He didn’t look to the third receiver before checking down.”
Smith said it was particularly hard to watch the Ravens win the Super Bowl last season without him.
“Ow, man! That hurt,” he said. “But I was happy for the guys I went through the ups and downs with. It just hurt not being able to celebrate with them after helping put in the foundation.”
This spring, Smith got a taste of indoor ball when he played for the Kentucky Drillers of the Continental Indoor Football League and had 153 catches for 2,073 yards and 13 touchdowns in 10 games.
“We threw the ball a lot,” he laughed.
It is somewhat ironic that Smith would play indoor ball considering he earned honors on the UNM track team in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. The field is less than 50 meters long here.
But that’s OK.
“It’s definitely a quick man’s game,” Smith said. “The main thing about the game is it’s man to man. If you beat the guy, theoretically you’re open. And with a running start, I reach top speed 10 yards past the line. It’s hard on a DB.”
OTHER SIGNEES: Dexter Manley, who had 77 catches for 1,221 yards and 29 touchdowns for the Stars in 2013, also has signed. In addition, Bramante has landed linebacker/fullback Cale Ware of Haskell Indian Nations University, WR/kick returner Justin Sydney of Dakota Wesleyan University and DB/KR Victor Rogers of the Knoxville Nighthawks of the Professional Indoor Football League.