Incoming rookies like Smith, Bryce Young, Will Anderson all blew off steam before one of the biggest nights of their lives at the Call of Duty Suite ahead of the NFL Draft.
“I just want to hear my name called in the first round.”
That was Nolan Smith’s one wish for his professional football pursuits during the 2023 NFL Draft. The former Georgia Bulldogs edge rusher was the 30th name called during April 27’s Round 1 selection ceremony, having been chosen by the Philadelphia Eagles. In an effort to calm his nerves in the moments leading up to the festivities, Smith and a number of other prospects distracted themselves by playing against each other at the second annual Call of Duty Draft Championship in downtown Kansas City.
They weren’t in attendance, but two names came to mind when we asked the 22-year-old who his dream CoD opponents would be.
“Either Bill Belichick or Peyton Manning. I feel like it’d be cool to watch them try to actually play the game — especially Peyton Manning. I feel like when he plays the game, he’ll try to look at it like real football. I’d love to just say I beat Peyton,” he joked.
Nolan Smith, a two-time College Football Playoff national title winner, is now set to begin his rookie campaign in Philadelphia, where he’ll join a powerhouse squad that made it all the way to Super Bowl LVII in February as champions of the NFC. Notably, Nolan Smith isn’t the only Bulldog the Eagles drafted in the first round — the kings of the NFC traded up with the Chicago Bears for the ninth overall pick and picked defensive tackle Jalen Carter.
All told, the NFL is consistently loaded with elite talent here and now, but when asked about who’d most love to play alongside, the pass-rushing Dawg could not respond fast enough.
“Obviously Tom Brady. He’s the greatest. Tom Brady has done so much for the game and just left a legacy that nobody could really live up to. Like, he won six [Super Bowls],” Smith said (omitting the seventh ring TB12 won with Tampa Bay two years ago), “played through decades, and has seen football change from rules to Super Bowls and things like that. I just wanted to sack him one time.”
Smith might have won the opening night at the draft in landing with such an elite team and reuniting with a big-time UGA teammate in Carter, but he unfortunately came up short in the Call of Duty Draft Championship. In the final showdown, defending champion Sauce Gardner, All-Pro cornerback for the New York Jets and last season’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, was upset by Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Darian Kinnard 56-55. For his exploits on the sticks, Kinnard won $10,000 and a gold championship belt.
Other event attendees included Bryce Young (Panthers), Will Anderson (Texans), Jalen Carter (Eagles), Anthony Richardson (Colts), and Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Seahawks).
The two-day tournament was also a chance for players to get a first look at Call of Duty Mobile, which is set to make its retail debut this summer on all mobile devices — but when you boot up the game, keep an eye out for Nolan Smith in case he pops up in your matchmaking lobby. The kid has an Eagle eye.
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