Dave Link, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee
Harrison Smith was born and raised in Knoxville, but he couldn’t be happier with life in Minnesota.
It’s no wonder. The two-time NFL Pro Bowl safety for the Minnesota Vikings signed a five-year, $51.25 million contract extension last summer with $28.578 million guaranteed. He would have been an unrestricted free agent after the 2016 season.
“I don’t want to play for another team, ever,” Smith said Thursday at the Smith & Smith youth football camp at his alma mater, Catholic High School. “I want to be a Viking for life, and I want to bring a championship to the city and the franchise.”
Smith, who conducts the camp with Powell graduate and Oakland Raiders tight end Lee Smith, is the NFL’s fourth-highest paid safety (annually) behind Kansas City’s Eric Berry ($13 million), Arizona’s Tyrann Mathieu ($12.5 million), and Miami’s Reshad Jones ($12 million), according to spotrac.com. Smith makes $10.25 million a year.
Smith was drafted out of Notre Dame in the first round with the 29th overall pick in 2012 by the Vikings. He lives in the Minneapolis area fulltime.
“It’s a great place,” Smith said. “I love it up there. It could be a little warmer in winter, but it’s a great city, great people. The fans are phenomenal and the support we get from the community, it’s incredible.”
Smith has been selected to the Pro Bowl each of the past two seasons. In 2016, Smith started the first 12 games before leaving the Week 13 game against Dallas with an ankle injury, which caused him to miss two games. He returned for the last two and played in the Pro Bowl.
“A lot of people don’t want to play in the Pro Bowl, but I think it’s an honor,” Smith said.
Smith said his surgery in March for a high ankle sprain “was just kind of a cleaning up” procedure and he’s full speed for the start of training camp July 26.
“No hesitation,” he said.
He’s optimistic the Vikings can improve on last year’s 8-8 record.
“I don’t think I’d be able to show up unless I thought we could do big things, and I truly believe that,” Smith said. “I’m excited, not just for me to go back and play, but to play with my teammates and my coaches and do big things for the city.”
Dave Link is a freelance contributor.