That all changed once he saw the campus, mingled with the players and spent quality time with the coaching staff.
"It was great experience. I felt welcomed. I just felt wanted," said Smith. "I met most of the players, like Shane (Carden) … and Davon (Grayson) and I met a lot of those guys. They spoke on what Coach Ruffin (McNeill) talks about. That environment part.
"Everything felt like what he was saying wasn't a joke."
In or out of season, McNeill constantly refers to the family environment he created at ECU – calling himself the dad and the players his kids. He even goes as far to name the coaches uncles and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher the grandfather.
Although some might roll their eyes at it, McNeill takes it seriously and it has worked wonders for him on the recruiting trail. Due in large part to ECU's "family," Smith, who rushed for 2,201 yards and 26 touchdowns last season, has ECU as his front-runner with just over two weeks until signing day.
"Honestly, the campus life and the players, I like more at East Carolina," said Smith. "The only thing that (appeals me) about Minnesota is the conference. That's the only thing, but everything else I would say I'm in love with East Carolina."
Also, he made sure to mention, "It's not so cold" at ECU in comparison to Minnesota.
Pirates' outside receivers coach Dave Nichol spent most of the time recruiting him, but offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley also played a part in getting Smith on campus this weekend.
Smith visited Minnesota during the season in November and received an offer soon after. Despite several teams showing interest, he remains uncommitted, which builds up drama leading up to February 5.