The day Tyron Smith got launched

Moreno Valley Rancho Verde grad Tyron Smith holds up a replica jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on the day he was picked in the opening round of the NFL Draft (9th overall) by the Dallas Cowboys. Photo:

While going through 2006 Cal-Hi Sports newsletters for a different project, we came across our report in April of 2006 about a big discovery at the Southern California Nike combine that had been held on the weekend of April 16-18 at USC. The player many were talking about after the day was not known when the event began. Since that player is now among the best offensive linemen in the NFL it seemed like a good time to re-publish that report.



(From Cal-Hi Sports Newsletter – April 20, 2006)

The young man stood out simply standing in line just before the start of registration for the 2006 Nike Football Training Camp at USC, looking about 6-foot-4 and 240 or 250 pounds with a well-defined physique. Some players have had success getting that physique through performance-enhancement supplements. Some have not.

“Hey, do you know who that kid is with RV on his shorts?” asked longtime USC supporter Stu Weinstein, who usually attends the Nike camp and often scouts players for the Trojans. “I don’t know who he is.”

Smith (right) goes through drill on his Pro Day workout at USC. Photo:

Well, Stu, it’s time to introduce you and the rest of the football world to Tyron Smith, and he isn’t the usual player to come to a Nike camp. Tyron, you see, is just a sophomore and still has two years of high school ball to play instead of one, which is the norm for most who come to the camp.

The RV on his shorts stands for Rancho Verde High of Moreno Valley, in the Inland Empire. Smith started along the offensive line for the Mustangs as a sophomore last fall. He was one of many sophomores who started for head coach Pete Duffy’s team, which is one reason why the team only went 4-6 and failed to make the CIF Southern Section Div. V playoffs.

At the Nike camp at USC, Smith worked out with one of the strongest collection of linemen that has come to the event. Among those present were Ryan Miller from Columbine of Littleton, Colo., and Jamario Burkes from Moon Valley of Phoenix, Ariz., who are two of the highest-ranked offensive linemen in the nation for the Class of 2007. Some of the best seniors-to-be from Southern California who were there included Martin Coleman from Edison of Huntington Beach, Lucas Barbosa of Chino, Mackey Mailo of Carson and the two massive brothers from Valley View of Moreno Valley, Eli and Ricky Maefau.

At the end of all the linemen drills and the spirited one-on-one battles, however, most of the coaches who worked out the linemen listed the same player as the most impressive of the day and that player was Smith. He actually measured out at 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds and his most impressive testing mark was the 5.10 time he had in the 40-yard dash. On a dry day and on a less soggy running surface, though, it’s easy to see that Smith could easily be down into the 4.9 to 5.0 range on some clocks.

Because of his emergence over such a strong collection of other linemen, Smith was voted MVP of the camp, a rare occurrence for a junior. In fact, in the seven-year history of Nike camps held around the country – one has already been held this spring in Miami with 10 more to come later in the spring – the only other junior-to-be who was ever picked as an MVP was running back Jonathan Stewart when he was still a sophomore at Timberline High in Washington and was MVP at a Nike camp at the University of Oregon.

“It’s a great honor, totally unexpected,” said Smith, who was informed of his selection on the drive home. “I just came out and worked hard. It’s important for me to try to be the best.”

Smith, who also is on Rancho Verde’s varsity track team (shot put, discuss) and plays basketball (although he was not on the varsity in that sport last season), estimated he’s put on about 10 to 15 pounds of muscle onto his frame since the end of the 2005 football season. “It’s just been lifting a lot,” he said.

His coach, though, told Student Sports recruiting editor Greg Biggins that Smith has been lifting five days per week. “He’s just going to be at another level,” Duffy said. “He’s a good student, too, with a 3.0 GPA.”

After the Nike Camp 2006

Smith’s experience that day at USC likely helped the Trojans land him after he graduated from Rancho Verde as an all-state first team offensive lineman. He went on to become one of the top offensive linemen in the Pac-12 Conference and then in the 2011 NFL Draft he was the ninth player selected overall in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys.

As an NFL player, Smith has continued to blossom and some have him in the conversation as the best overall offensive lineman in the league. One way to look at it is that in the last three seasons the Cowboys have had three different running backs rank among the league leaders in rushing — DeMarco Murray in 2014, Darren McFadden in 2015 and rookie Ezekiel Elliott last year. The major similarity between those three backs was the big guy (and some of his teammates) up front.

Smith ended the 2016 season chosen first team left tackle for the All-Pro Team even though he played through a series of nagging injuries. It was the fourth straight year that Smith has been named first team All-Pro.

There’s still a way to go, however, for Tyron to be regarded as the greatest offensive lineman the Cowboys have ever had from California. That label still would be worn by NFL Hall of Famer Larry Allen, who grew up in Compton, Stockton, Lodi and Napa and went to college at Sonoma State. Allen was an All-Pro 11 times in 12 seasons with the Cowboys. Who knew that when Allen was wrapping up his NFL career that the Cowboys’ next great offensive lineman from California was just getting started in high school?

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle:

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