"I went on an unofficial visit about a month ago and liked it, but I had to bring my mom up here to see how she would like it," said James Smith. She was pretty well with it, so I made my decision today. She got to meet the coaches. They welcomed her and made her feel like she was already part of the family."
ISU's fourth commitment for 2005 shined as a high school running back last season, earning second-team all-state honors in a crowded 4A class that included seniors Jason Scales, London Hayes, and Greg Coleman. He rushed for 1,369 yards and 12 scores on 230 carries, averaging nearly six yards per attempt.
Smith got an in-depth look into what next fall might look like when he arrived for the start of preseason camp, just a day after the 105-man roster reported.
"I sat in on their meetings and running back meetings today, then watched them practice," he said. "I know about three or four guys up there, and I just felt welcomed there. It felt like the right place for me. I talked to my mom on the way home and told her what I'd been feeling the last couple weeks. I wanted to commit before the season started. She said it was my decision to make, so I called Coach McCarney and committed.
"Today was media day and he was just getting back from all of his interviews. He said that was the highlight of his day. I guess he was pretty excited."
According to Smith, ISU was a favorite for much of his recruiting. Head coach Dan McCarney sped up that process when he took a trip to Smith's high school in the spring and became the first Division I head coach to offer him a scholarship.
"They came to my school at the end of the track season and it seemed like they were really interested in me," Smith said. "Then my coach and I went up there to check it out. They made us feel like we were welcome. I wanted to go somewhere that had a lot of interest in me, and Iowa State was at the top of my list from the start."
Holding out for more offers was not a consideration, however. Smith says he wanted to end the recruiting process before his senior year began.
"It's a big relief for me, because I've been thinking about this a lot," he said. "I haven't really told anybody around my area, so nobody really knew. Football season is about to start and I wanted to make my decision before all of that."