IRVING — Scouts say Tyron Smith has a huge upside.
According to Smith, it's Hall of Fame huge.
Seeking to bolster their aging offensive line, the Dallas Cowboys selected the 20-year-old Southern California tackle with the ninth pick in the NFL draft Thursday night.
“I think I have the potential to be a Pro Bowler ... and be a Hall of Famer,” Smith said in a conference call after he learned of the selection in a phone call from Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.
Smith is the first offensive lineman taken in the first round by the Cowboys during the Jerry Jones era. He's also the first offensive lineman Dallas has selected in the first round since 1981, when Tom Landry used the 26th pick to select Missouri's Howard Richards.
“I would have hated tonight not to address and improve our offensive line,” Jones said of a front wall that has only one starter, left tackle Doug Free, under 30.
Smith's bold show of confidence was no surprise to offensive line coach Hudson Houck.
“Here's a guy who is 20 years old,” Houck said, “and when he came in here (to Valley Ranch for a predraft visit), every coach, every other person who talked to him said, ‘This guy really seems at ease. He's very comfortable.' So I think he's a confident guy.”
Houck, who at 68 is the league's highest-paid offensive line coach, said Smith would start at right tackle this season. He also suggested he wouldn't be surprised if Smith does indeed become an NFL great.
“He better be, or I may not be coaching,” Houck joked. “This guy will wake up my career, I think.”
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