At USC's pro day workout last month, Tyron Smith said he accepted an invitation to New York for the first round of the NFL draft without fear that he might sit fidgeting in the green room at Radio City Music Hall.
The offensive tackle's confidence was well-founded.
Taken ninth by the Dallas Cowboys, Smith didn't have to wait long Thursday. The former Moreno Valley Rancho Verde High star was the first offensive lineman chosen and the first offensive lineman in 30 years to be selected by the Cowboys in the first round.
In a conference call with Dallas-area reporters, Smith was no less confident.
"I think I have the potential to be a Pro Bowler," he said, "and be a Hall of Famer."
Smith's selection by the Cowboys was not a surprise.
Dallas Coach Jason Garrett attended USC's pro day, reportedly to evaluate the 6-foot-5, 305-pound Smith, who has gained more than 15 pounds since last season. Afterward, Smith was asked which teams he was scheduled to meet with before the draft.
"I can't name all of them," he said. "I know the first one is the Cowboys."
Many draft analysts subsequently had Smith penciled into the No. 9 slot, so perhaps it was no coincidence that Smith wore a gray suit with white pinstripes and a dark blue tie to the draft.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday, April 30, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 64 words Type of Material: Correction
NFL draft: An article in the April 29 Sports section about the Dallas Cowboys drafting USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith reported that the Cowboys had not drafted a USC player since 2004, when they selected offensive tackle Jacob Rogers in the second round. It should have said the Cowboys hadn't drafted a USC lineman since 2004; Dallas drafted USC kicker David Buehler in 2009.
The Cowboys took their selection down to the wire, presumably while entertaining trade offers.
But Smith, who left USC with a season of eligibility remaining, indicated he was unconcerned. "If they didn't take me, they didn't take me," he said. "You've just got to be patient with it."
The Cowboys had not drafted a USC player since 2004, when they took offensive tackle Jacob Rogers in the second round. They had not drafted an offensive lineman in the first round since 1981, when they tabbed Howard Richards of Missouri with the No. 26 pick.
"I think our fans are sophisticated enough to know how important a really talented offensive lineman can be," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "I think we've got one here. I'm not at all dismayed about not making a big splash.
"In the last few years we've opened a stadium, hosted a Super Bowl
Smith, drafted higher than any USC offensive lineman since Tony Boselli was picked second by Jacksonville in 1995, will play for a Dallas staff that includes offensive line coach Hudson Houck, who was a USC assistant from 1976-1982 and coached players such as Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz.
As a USC freshman in 2008, Smith played left tackle behind future NFL player Charles Brown. He moved to right tackle in 2009 and started for two seasons.
Smith is expected to play right tackle for the Cowboys but also could switch with veteran Doug Free and move to the left side.
"They want me to play left, but wherever they want me to play will be good," he said.
Pete Duffy, Smith's high school coach, was elated by his former player's top-10 selection.
Smith played right tackle as a sophomore in high school before moving to the left side for his junior and senior seasons.
"He can play whatever he wants," Duffy said. "Just go ahead and tell him you don't think he can do it and see what happens."
Smith is prepared to live up to high expectations.
"It's all about working hard," he said. "It's not going to be easy and everybody knows that."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.