“It’s funny, I always grew up an Alabama fan,” he said. “From kindergarten, actually. My kindergarten teacher, her son was a manager for Alabama and somehow he got me into the locker room and I saw my first collegiate game at Alabama. Of course crimson was basically red in my mind, so it was my favorite color. My favorite animal was the elephant…”
Fast-forward several years later, and the big class of 2017 talent took his first trip to Tuscaloosa as a recruit on Friday.
“This was my first visit there. It was great, just seeing all the facilities of course; it’s such a prestigious institution in the college football world,” Smith said. “Seeing how they operate, really to be the best, it was sort of cool to see it up close. It was just incredible; the work ethic of those guys is incredible.
“The locker room stood out a lot, there’s a portion with a bunch of pools, heated pools. The stadium, too, it was awesome.”
A big part of the trip for Smith was the interaction with various Crimson Tide coaches. From Nick Saban on down, each presented something different to one of the top rising-juniors in the Volunteer State.
“I got a chance to talk to coach (Billy) Napier, coach (Nick) Saban and coach (Mario) Cristobal,” he said. “I mostly talked to coach Napier, who is my main recruiter. He was telling me a guy like me, an intelligent guy, can really fit the system at Alabama. It’s set up for me to succeed.
“Coach Cristobal was talking about my film and how my offense is set up in high school could actually help my game at the University of Alabama because of the plays we run and stuff like that. They probably see me as a tackle.”
Saban’s time with Smith was on the other end of the spectrum.
“Coach Saban had a totally different approach compared to most coaches,” he said. “The thing he really emphasized was life after football. Football, if you're a good player, it will take care of itself. You’ll get there eventually, but the main thing is receiving education. Getting your master’s and becoming the best person, not just the best football player, you can be. He wants to make you a father and a man, not just a great football player. They’re not just a football factory, they’re trying to make better people.
“It sort of blew me away. He’s just a wise man, he used different metaphors to make things a lot simpler. It was amazing hearing him speak. Hearing the voice he used, he was definitely about business.”
With no favorites to his name while anticipating more options to come up in the summer months, Smith is taking his time with the process. In fact, he doesn’t anticipate a verbal commitment being made until his senior season, at the earliest.
But both he and his family were impressed with what Alabama has to offer.
“I took the trip with my father and my sister, they were blown away,” he said with a laugh. "They loved it. One reason I’m looking at Alabama is the amount of draft picks on the offensive line they’ve had. I want a coach that’s going to bring the best out of me every day, that’s going to make me work hard.
“The players were telling me about coach Cristobal, the line coach, he’s going to be very blunt with you; he’s going to yell at you. But you can’t take it personally; he just wants the best out of you and that’s what I want to hear from a coach.”
Smith, who is seeking a family atmosphere in his eventual college choice, plans on seeing several schools this summer. The only planned campus trip at this time is a Sunday camp experience at Ole Miss, another program already on his offer list. Smith has also been invited to The Opening Finals in Beaverton, Oregon in July.
Smith recaps sophomore season with Scout: