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Lecitus Smith, Marquis Hayes Team Up To Make Team

Rookie offensive linemen have forged friendship since coming to Cardinals

Rookies Marquis Hayes (left) and Lecitus Smith listen intently to the teaching of offensive line coach Sean Kugler during a workout earlier this offseason.
Rookies Marquis Hayes (left) and Lecitus Smith listen intently to the teaching of offensive line coach Sean Kugler during a workout earlier this offseason.

Lecitus Smith hadn't fully absorbed the fact he had just been a draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals before the team had selected Marquis Hayes one round later.

Smith, a guard out of Virginia Tech, took notice of Hayes, a guard out of Oklahoma.

"I'm like, 'OK, that's my competition,' " Smith recalled. "It was kind of going to be a little feud and we're going see each other but not really like each other. I thought it was going to be one of those relationships."

Smith smiled.

"It's definitely not that," he added.

The Cardinals have offensive linemen at the top of the depth chart, and right now, Smith and Hayes are not among them. They are sixth- and seventh-round picks, respectively, trying to fight their way on to a roster than could use an influx of young blood at the position and doing it together.

They are roommates at the hotel the team uses for the rookies before the season, spending hours studying the playbook together, or playing some video games, or just talking.

"He's a good roommate," Hayes said. "He's got a girlfriend so he's locked in with his girl, but when we study together, he's helpful."

The two briefly met at the Senior Bowl, playing on opposite teams. But now, Hayes said, "this is our class and we stick together."

Hayes has some ties to the team. He was teammates with quarterback Kyler Murray and wide receiver Marquise Brown in college for two seasons, giving him both familiar faces and an understanding of the transformation from college to pro.

"Seeing guys you had in your college locker room, guys you played around with and joked with, but you see how serious they are," Hayes said. "They both move like NFL legends. I look up to that."

Neither can help Hayes as much as his fellow offensive linemen, of course. Both Hayes and Smith have praised the veterans in the offensive line room for helping the rookies maneuver around their first months in the NFL. Smith has tried to learn a new position – center – after snapping the ball for the first time in pre-draft preparation, knowing such versatility can only help his future.

(And with the future of Rodney Hudson unknown, it also may be necessary for the Cards.)

Smith said the inclination for a young player first with a team is repeat what a veteran does in drills or during plays. But that can only get a rookie so far.

"Just because a guy looks like this in his pass set or has his hands like this, yes I can try and mimic a vet's game," Smith said. "I'd love to play like D.J. Humphries. But I'm not 6-5 and I don't move like him. I do what I can do. I want to get as strong, as smart, as fast as I can on that football field."

That's a journey the roomies will take together as they work toward grabbing a roster spot.

"The older guys correct us as much as the coaches do," Haye said. "So it's good to have someone like Lecitus with me to go through stuff like this."

Images from the final day of 2022 rookie minicamp.