Five-Star Tackle Doesn't Believe the Hype
It happens every day in homes across the country. A teenager walks through the door and shuffles through the mail, looking for an envelope with their name on it. The scene plays out every day in the Smith household. But for Olathe South's Braden Smith, there's typically more than one letter addressed to him. "The thing about Braden," says his father, Dave Smith, "is everyone sees him as this big-time recruit. He doesn't." The younger Smith is the calm at the center of a recruiting storm. Piles of mail arrive for the 6-foot-6 offensive tackle each day, both at school and at home. 77 handwritten letters one day from Alabama, 78 from Texas A&M the next. To other kids, those pen and ink notes are the stuff of dreams. To Smith, they may as well put him to sleep. "He'll read letters from schools, drop them on the counter and walk off," Smith's father laughs. "Most of the time, we open them!" Olathe South's Jeff Gourley has seen the insanity that is The Braden Smith Recruiting Saga up-close. The longtime head coach can only shake his head. "My son, Scott Gourley, is the only Division 1 player I've ever had," he says of the freshman offensive lineman at Air Force. "So this is really my first rodeo, and it turns out to be one of the best players in the country!" Laughing, Gourley asks, "I couldn't have had a few two or three-stars first?" Like most high school football coaches, Gourley is always ready with a story about a current or former player. When it comes to his highest-profile player ever, the coaches recruiting Smith draw more airtime than the junior lineman. "It's funny how it happens," Gourley begins. "Oklahoma contacted me about Braden, and wanted to do the eye test," he trails off, laughing to himself. "The assistant coach from OU, he just happened to walk into my office on the day I was weighing and measuring Braden. I had the tape measure in my hands, and the coach's mouth was just agape." Gourley continues to laugh. "He couldn't talk. His hands were shaking! He finally managed to say, ‘wow.' After that, Nebraska, Stanford, everybody started coming." With scholarship from many of the premiere programs in college football, many have perceived the local schools to be outgunned in the fight to land Braden Smith. Gourley maintains that isn't true. "Kansas has been in to see Braden," he says. "We like Coach Grunhard. He came in early and visited a little bit, got a chance to visit Braden and see him. Ron Powlus has also been in contact lately." Missouri, much like their Southeastern Conference neighbors, has made an impression through the mailbox. "The coolest letter is Missouri's," Gourley says. "It's bubble wrapped with a big, gold Tiger logo. There's one piece of paper in it, a picture of Mizzou players in the NFL. There is Braden Smith, like he's in the NFL after playing at Missouri. That's pretty cool."