SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 22: Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants is hit from behind by Justin Smith #94 of the San Francisco 49ers during the NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park on January 22, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
One of the things I've heard fairly frequently in the broadcast booth is the comment that, "Player X is a football player!" I used italics there because the announcer emphasizes that term. There are times I find myself wondering what exactly they mean by that because none of them bother to clarify.
Well, Jim Harbaugh actually went into some detail to describe, who else, but Justin Smith. After announcing the team captains for 2012, Coach Harbaugh was asked specifically about Smith:
When you look at Justin - you want each guy to get better every day obviously - what does he have to get better at?
"There are so many things that encompass. The ultimate compliment that you could give to a football player, the ultimate compliment that any true competitor who plays the game would be proud to be known as, and that is Justin Smith is a football player. He is a football player. That encompasses a lot of things. That encompasses athleticism, speed, power, strength. Somebody that plays with effort, bend in their knees and on and on and on. A lot of the evaluators, personnel people, describe a player in a lot of adjectives. The one that encompasses all of it, is he is a football player. Now, it's also true that as a football player you are either getting better or you are getting worse, you never stay the same."
I think the problem with announcers using that phrase is that they apply in more situations than they probably should. A guy is gritty, "he's a football player." A guy makes a big tackle, "he's a football player."
In this case, Justin Smith could be that all-encompassing version of "a football player." It really is just that all-encompassing force of nature. This is probably as close as we'll come to hearing Coach Harbaugh describe Justin Smith as a perfect player. I don't think there is much more he can say to describe Smith.