Choosing in Style

On Feb. 4, ESPN will be live in Montezuma, Georgia - home of the Beaver Creek Festival and duck race.

But not for a duck. A Bulldog, Bruin, Wolverine or Aggie? Maybe. But no, not a duck.

Roquan Smith, the No. 2 linebacker in the country, lives in Marshallville, Georgia, but goes to the nearby Macon County High School in Montezuma, a 4.5 square mile town with a population at just about 3,500. And on signing day, this is where he'll choose how he spends the next few years of life.

And he'll choose in style.

In front of friends, family and a national audience, Smith said he plans to wear True Religion jeans, Timberland boots and a blazer - a trendy mix of casual and stylish that would almost suggest he's ready to head out to fashion-frenzied Los Angeles.

But then you see his face light up when he talks about hunting squirrels as a kid or hunting deer during the recruiting dead period, and you realize he might just have to stay in the South.

As of late January, his choices have been narrowed down to UCLA, Georgia, Michigan and (as of very recently) Texas A&M, all of which average at least 30,000 undergraduate students, about 20 times the population of his entire hometown.

Any person could guess Smith is a high-caliber athlete as he struts around the Macon County football field. His broad well-built shoulders and muscular chest are barely hidden beneath the blue and lime green of his Under Armour t-shirt. When questioned about how many pushups he could do in a row, Smith laughed and guessed 75, though he regularly does multiple sets of 50 during his workouts.

Well, he's got to burn off his favorite lunch- the Montezuma exclusive, Mary's Fried Chicken- somehow.

Just two and a half weeks before National Signing Day, in observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Smith was taking the day off school and working out.

But not from recruiting.

The Monday sandwiched between his official visits to Michigan and Texas A&M, Smith got in-home visit from his recruiting coaches at UCLA, a nearly routine meeting for the senior as the Bruins have been around since the beginning of his recruiting.

UCLA defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich has maintained a close relationship with Smith since the Bruins' offer during his sophomore year, a relationship Smith values.

"They were my first offer, and they've been recruiting me ever since then," Smith said. "They never fell off."

Keeping the Bruins' loyalty in mind, he's still adding others to the lineup. Texas A&M has jumped in as the latest contender after his official visit to College Station. Head coach Kevin Sumlin wasted no time and flew to Montezuma the Monday after Smith's weekend in Texas to show the linebacker just how badly the Aggies want a shot as well.

And then there's the Big Ten contender. Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin recruited Smith when he was still at Florida and has convinced Smith to keep the Wolverines in mind. Smith likes the idea of having Jim Harbaugh coaching with fire against the reigning national champion, but he doesn't talk all too much about the possibility of going to Ann Arbor.

Though he grew up a fan of USC (he's quick to namedrop Reggie Bush, LenDale White, and Matt Leinart), Smith said his first time out visiting Los Angeles was this past summer. And going against childhood fandom, in December, Smith said that if he goes out west, it's going to be for UCLA.

With schools scattered all over the country and in multiple conferences are still in the mix for Smith, the ever-popular concern of proximity lends itself to early presumptions on where he'll land. But according to Smith, with his family's support no matter where he chooses, geography is going to have little to do with his decision.

"Not knocking Georgia or anything. It's easy to go to Georgia. That's what people do here," Smith said. "I'm trying to pan out to be something different in life. I'm not trying to do what everybody did before me."

Montezuma isn't funneling people to Athens left and right, but Smith pointed out that the area, being less than four hours from four different SEC schools, is definitely SEC country.

"Early on in the process I was so stuck on SEC, but I had to widen my horizons. Go look at different schools," Smith said.

As the decision nears, don't look for any hints on Twitter or Instagram.

Aside from the the occasional picture with coaches, Smith claims to not be a social media hound like many 17- and 18-year-olds going through the same process. He even laughed at the picture tweeted by fellow outside linebacker Quart'e Sapp, another four-star out of the peach state, of himself lying in a bathtub full of collegiate letters.

The final weekend before National Signing Day, Smith will jet out to the west coast for his official visit with the Bruins, putting a lot of pressure on UCLA to seal the deal on a three-year relationship.

While in UCLA-amid all of the coaches meetings and football flirting-Smith said he's going to make sure he returns from L.A. with that signing day suit.

But the big question remains: what hat will he add to the outfit?


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