In the spring of 2012, Riley Smith was a small and speedy wideout looking for a chance to play college football. He says he nearly accepted a preferred walk-on opportunity at Boise State or Utah State, but stumbled academically down the stretch of his high school career amid family trouble.
Then, he was 5-foot-9 and an estimated 150 pounds. He took the following year off and worked to help the family out, in addition to focusing on his physique in the meantime.
Smith then enrolled at Ventura (Calif.) Community College the following January, looking to get back on track with both football and academics. After one season of play and a redshirt year in 2014, the 21-year-old now reports vitals of 5-foot-11, 192 pounds with double-digit scholarship offers.
Alabama, led by wide receivers coach Billy Napier, joined the party with a verbal scholarship offer this week.
“He was like, ‘we want to get you here ASAP, so get me your highlights as soon as possible because we’d like to offer you,’” he said of Napier. “Alabama likes my speed, he really likes my speed and athleticism. He asked me if I can really windmill a basketball. I sent him the video and told him about my 41-inch vertical. He says he likes the way I block, my character and how I am on and off the field.”
Smith says he also now sports a 3.0 cumulative GPA in his college courses and he’ll be able to enroll at a four-year institution in December or January. He’ll have two seasons to play two at the next level.
“It was a good character test, it humbled me a lot,” he said of the delayed process.
The Boise, Idaho native was taken back by the Crimson Tide offer, which was followed by Florida on Friday and preceded by plenty of programs, including Utah State, BYU, Cincinnati, South Alabama and many others.
"I was surprised, it was very humbling, but I can’t get too big-headed and whatnot,” Smith said. “But I have to finish strong. He’s (Napier) a great guy, I can tell you. He likes to coach his players to the best of his ability and I can tell he has great character about him. He cares about his players and recruits a lot, and that meant a lot to me.
“I know that they’ve gotten into the spread offense more with (offensive coordinator) Lane Kiffin there, now. They’re obviously a powerhouse and them moving to spread is a big interest in my part. And of course, their winning tradition is huge.”
Smith plans on taking visits during the summertime, possibly official visits, which could continue into the fall. He says he's looking for a program that balances academics and athletics well and also maintains that location isn’t a major factor in the decision-making process.