There's a lesson in the Colts' hiring of running backs coach DeAndre Smith anyone reading this should take to heart: Be nice to everyone you work with and treat them with respect, because you never know who'll be your boss someday.
In 2009, Smith was the running backs coach at UNLV – one of his 12 collegiate stops, mostly as a running backs coach, from 1999-2021. Over those 20-plus years, he met plenty of student and graduate assistant coaches – guys on the bottom rung of the coaching ladder often doing grunt work for a program.
At UNLV, one of those student assistants was Shane Steichen, who shifted into that role after his playing career ended. Fourteen years later, Steichen interviewed Smith for the Colts' running backs coach job, and Smith got it.
In Indianapolis, Smith will be tasked with helping Jonathan Taylor return to the form he showed in 2020-2021, when he was healthy and established himself as one of the best running backs in football.
Smith talked with Taylor in February and checked in on some of his film, and is confident the 2021 first-team All-Pro will bounce back into being a top offensive weapon in the NFL.
"Outstanding running back," Smith said. "Unbelievable juice, his acceleration, his balance, his vision are all the qualities you want in a running back."
Smith, too, has recent experience helping a talented running back return to form after being hampered by injuries. New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley tore his ACL in Week 2 of the 2020 season, and in 15 games from 2020-2021 rushed 181 times for 627 yards – good for just 3.5 yards per carry.
But in 2022, with Smith as his coach, Barkley carried 295 times for 1,312 yards (4.4 yards/carry) with 10 touchdowns and earned his second career Pro Bowl selection. A big thing for Smith, after talking to Taylor, is knowing that Taylor is "open to whatever" to help him improve – just like Barkley was a year ago.
"The things I'm hearing about (Taylor) as a pro are really, really similar to how Saquon is," Smith said. "But as far as a football player, just an outstanding runner. I saw him play in college so I know his abilities and it's cool to see it translate to the NFL. He's a talented individual and I'm looking forward to having another opportunity to work with him."