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He considered going home the next morning, but decided to return to Radio City Music Hall and wait until he was finally drafted.

“I see it as a blessing in disguise,” Smith said. “The main reason for coming back was, I came out the first day to represent my university and my family, and I didn’t want the perception to be made that I’m bitter I wasn’t selected in the first round and let all those people down who support me.

“So, I made sure I came back and walked across that stage.”

Smith leaned on his family as well as his faith to get through those frustrating early moments, saying that if he was meant to go in the first round, he would have gone then.

“The focus is not where you start,” Smith said, “but where you finish.”

Smith, who owns almost all of West Virginia’s passing records, gets rid of the ball quickly, can make completions on the run and is capable of making big plays _ something the Jets sorely lacked last season. He threw for 11,662 yards _ including back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons _ 98 touchdowns and only 21 interceptions in four years at West Virginia.

But there were still some reservations about Smith being an elite-type quarterback who could carry a franchise. Smith had some accuracy problems and also fumbled the ball an alarming 32 times. Contributing to those doubts was a subpar performance at the Pinstripe Bowl in the snow at Yankee Stadium, a 38-14 loss to Syracuse in which Smith took two safeties and was hardly the dominant presence he had been throughout the season when he threw 42 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. Scouts also questioned his overall skills in some predraft reports.

“We don’t care about anybody else’s evaluations,” said Mornhinweg, who thinks Smith will be fine in his West Coast-style offense. “We only care about ours.”

Smith was equally resolute: “You know what,” he said, “critics don’t have a pick.”

Smith will take the playbook he received from the coaches and study it over the next two weeks before he returns in two weeks for rookie camp. Then, he’ll get out on the field and the Jets will go from there.

“Our goal,” Mornhinweg said, “is, `Hey, let’s see how fast we can do this thing and get you ready to go, so you can function at a high level.’”

Smith has no problem with the expectations, and he thinks his ability to read offenses and change plays at the line of scrimmage in college helped him develop his ability and confidence.

“I was given a tremendous amount of freedom,” he said. “The coaches and the rest of the staff really trusted me with the offense. Week in and week out, I was a part of putting together the game plans. I think it helped me grow over the course of the last two years.”