If you were to try and rank the greatest defensive linemen to ever play for the Spartans, no list would be complete without Robaire Smith. During his tenure in East Lansing he racked up 22 sacks, and 48 tackles for a loss. In 2000 Smith was drafted by the Tennessee Titans and has been a fixture in the NFL ever since, spending time with the Titans, Texans, and Browns.
Robaire Smith’s entire life isn’t football, however. He is a devoted family man, and that fact never leaves his mind. “I thank God every day for them,” he said. “I was blessed to marry my high school sweetheart, and we have four lovely kids. So, it was a blessing.”
Smith’s family also help to keep him grounded. Where some NFL players may get a big head due to their new-found wealth and fame, Smith didn’t end up like that. He knows that true character isn’t what shows up when the cameras are on. He explained: ““That was something I was taught by my mom from day 1. She always taught us respect. And some of it I just learned. I always put myself in a situation and think how would I want someone to treat me? How would I want someone to treat my mother, my brother? I think people need to start thinking about that. It isn’t what you do when you’re in front of people, it’s what you do when you’re by yourself that shows your real character.”
But of course, Robaire’s generous personality off the field, begs the question: Who is that maniac on the field? Even he doesn’t really have an answer for that. “I hear people talk about that on and off switch all the time, and I was definitely one that was blessed with it.” He went on: “People tell me, ‘when you play, you’re so angry. What is going on in your head?’ And I swear to this day that I can’t really tell you what get’s me to that point. But it comes!” Whatever the reason, it certainly has served Smith very well in his career.
Perhaps the reason he has such a good on and off switch is because of his attitude toward the game. Smith attributed his desire to play the game to two specific players he watched growing up. He elaborated: “… first and foremost, my older brother Fernando. Watching him when I was in elementary school, even though they were like 0-8 or whatever, but he consistently played hard. And I grew up to like Lawrence Taylor. He’s another guy that reminds me of things that I wanted to be as a player: The relentlessness, the hard play, him just defeating people like he does.” This relentless nature shows through in how Smith played the game as both a Spartan and a member of the NFL.
Smith hasn’t left his days as a Spartan behind him either. He still appreciates hearing from MSU fans when he travels from stadium to stadium during the NFL schedule. “I think that was what I like most about the NFL. When I go somewhere and I hear someone yell out ‘Michigan State Spartans’ or someone from my hometown yell ‘Flint,Michigan’ that boosts me up so much.”
And that connection to Michigan State continues with his pride in what the current coaching staff, and especially Mark Dantonio have done. “It’s big man, it’s big. Coach Dantonio has been a good coach for a long time,” he began. “We were there when he was the secondary coach under Nick Saban, he was a good coach then. He could have been a head coach then as far as I was concerned.” He continued his praise of both the program and Coach D by saying, “It’s good to see him take the program to the next level like he did. I think he can communicate with them (the players) like not too many coaches can. He’s a players’ coach.” Smith isn’t alone in being a former MSU player praising the current staff, but his praise certainly carries a lot of weight.
Robaire Smith is a credit to the entire Spartan Nation, but this article would be best closed with Robaire’s own words regarding his philosophy on life. He said: “I don’t think there’s any goal to big or too strong for me to defeat.” If history is any indication, he’s right.