'Throwback dinosaur' Lee Smith has become a strong mentor in Falcons locker room

Veteran tight end has become a 'big brother' to Kyle Pitts and other young Falcons players

Atlanta Falcons tight end Lee Smith #85 looks on during AT&T Atlanta Falcons Training Camp at Atlanta Falcons Headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Wednesday September 1, 2021. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta Falcons)

Lee Smith will not get 100 yards or catch a few touchdowns in a game like some tight ends in the NFL.

Smith describes himself as an "old school" blocking tight end and a "fat old man" compared to some of the more dynamic tight ends in the league. He loves hanging out and partying with the offensive lineman and says if he catches 10 passes, it is a career year — and he is right. Smith has caught more than 10 passes once over 10 NFL seasons and the most receiving yards he has had in a season is 78.

"I'm a throwback dinosaur," Smith said. "The tight ends that make the big money and drive the Lamborghinis play on third and long and in two minutes. They make plays in the pass game — that's never been my role, and I'm fine with that. I'm built like the guys were built in the old days, and I love it."


In Smith's few months with the Falcons, Kyle Pitts describes him as a "big brother," and other young players are amazed by his willingness to help them. Smith has stuck around in the league for 11 seasons because of his ability as a tight end and his reputation as a great mentor.

Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said he has admired Lee Smith for a long time. He had conversations about bringing in Lee Smith in his previous coaching stops, but each time he tried to make the move, another team signed the 11th-year pro. Arthur Smith finally got his guy in March, trading a 2022 seventh-round pick to the Buffalo Bills.

"You want to bring the right guys in here," Arthur Smith said. "He's got a great reputation. His teammates love him, and he's a great player and good at the role we ask him to do."

Lee Smith's role is more than just a football player. He's also as a mentor. So when rookie outside linebacker Adetokunbo Ogundeji asked Smith about controlling edge rushers, he gave him all the advice he had. Smith knows that giving Ogundeji tips on how to get by him will make his job a lot more challenging but says he would not be able to "sleep at night" knowing that he did not help the rookie out.

"I'm not just going to keep beating him up every day," Smith said. "That doesn't help him. I'll grab him after practice and say, 'Hey boss, you got your ass kicked because of this, and the other veteran tight ends are gonna use this to beat you.' It's never about me. I want him to beat me in practice. I want him to win because I got enough pride in myself to know that if he can beat me in practice, then most tight ends in this league are in trouble when his hands are in the ground."

At this point in his career, Smith focuses on helping young players like Pitts and Ogundeji in whatever ways he can. He might not be able to give Pitts a tip on running a route or catching a one-handed pass, but he gives the rookie advice about blocking or being a professional and navigating the NFL.

"I've always said that I will pass the torch to my young teammates," Smith said. "I've had to take people's jobs to come into this thing 11 years ago and have had to take people's jobs every year since. I can promise you that these guys will have every opportunity to take my job because I'm gonna teach them everything I know. But don't get me wrong, they ain't taking it now."

When Smith's playing career is over, he plans to dedicate his life to helping young men. He is not sure specifically what he will do yet, but he wants to start a program in his hometown of Powell, Tennessee, where he can train young athletes and help young men grow.

"I was raised by a man with no father, so I want to help any young male out there that's never seen a real man operate," Smith said. "Helping young men grow is what warms my heart. I get more joy out of that than I do anything else at this point in my life."


Celebrate the return of Falcons football with a FREE kickoff party featuring special appearances by Jeezy, Pastor Troy, and Falcons Legend Michael Vick. Join current Falcons players and special guests as we kick off the 2021 season!

This event will be emceed by announcer Ryan Cameron and Falcons Legend Harry Douglas and will feature:

  • Appearances by Calvin Ridley, Younghoe Koo, Mike Davis, Coach Smith and Terry Fontenot
  • Special appearances by Jeezy, Pastor Troy, and Falcons Legend Michael Vick
  • Performances by Falcons Cheerleaders and Freddie Falcon
  • Giveaways and more!

Plus, gear up for gameday and shop our new Dirty Birds collection in-person at the Atlantic Station Team Store, located just across from the Atlantic Green.

Date: Friday, September 10 // Time: 7:00 pm – 9:00pm

Location: Outdoors in the Atlantic Green at Atlantic Station, near HOBNOB (245 18th St NW, Atlanta, GA 30363)

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