Sitting out his first season and not even practicing with the Bulldogs, Smith concentrated on his academics to make sure he would be ready to get to Auburn as an early graduate following his redshirt freshman season. That work paid off and he will be on the Plains when classes start next week and he can’t wait.
“I just knew it was the right place for me,” Smith said about re-signing with the Tigers. “I was willing to help anybody else get to Auburn if they had a scholarship or if Auburn was looking at them. I think Auburn is the spot for everybody.”
That Auburn is still the place for Smith is a testament to his strong feelings for the program and university and also the strength of the bond has built with coaches Gus Malzahn, Rhett Lashlee and Dameyune Craig. Following a 2014 season in which he completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,566 yards and 18 touchdowns with just two interceptions while adding 424 yards rushing and 10 scores on the ground, Smith had options to look elsewhere, but that never happened.
“Gus Malzahn and that offense is the biggest reason why,” Smith said. “Just him being true to word and the guy he is. It’s also about the atmosphere and the fans.”
Now the work begins in earnest for Smith with Auburn having to replace Nick Marshall as the starting quarterback heading into 2015. Already with starting experience and two years in the system under his belt, Jeremy Johnson is the odds-on favorite to win the job with redshirt freshman Sean White also expected to present a strong challenge with freshman Tyler Queen also on campus as an early graduate.
Smith will have to show strong skills early in the spring to make a run for playing time at the position, but if he doesn’t that’s something he can live with because he will have other options. A speedster who has skills as a wide receiver as well, Smith said if that’s where he winds up then it’s something he will embrace with open arms.
“I’m real excited,” Smith said. “I get a chance to compete with some of the best and finally get my shot at quarterback. Even if I don’t get the quarterback spot I’m just willing to help my team in any way possible. All I plan on doing is trying to win the championship.”
Winning a title is the goal for the program every year and that may come easier with Smith at wide receiver. With Quan Bray a senior in 2014 and Sammie Coates entering the NFL Draft, Auburn could use another playmaker at the position, something Smith has already shown he can be as a receiver. Two years ago in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic, he earned MVP honors with six catches for 134 yards in a win. Much of those came from the arm of Johnson, which could be a sign of things to come for Auburn.
“I think it’s going to be real fun,” Smith said. “Me and him were roommates at the all-star game. We’re friends and we’re real close. We have stayed in contact throughout the process. He’s a good guy. As you could see in the Alabama-Mississippi Game, we’ve got chemistry with me at receiver and him at quarterback. You might get to see that or however things work out.”
No matter what happens with Smith he has earned the right to get his shot at Auburn because of his hard work and dedication. He said it wouldn’t have been possible without a lot of help and support, something he’s forever grateful for.
“I had to handle business at Gulf Coast,” Smith said. “I met a lot of people that cared about me and wished me the best and was behind me 100 percent. I appreciate them for helping me get where I’m trying to get to.”