It seems Hawkeyes know to pencil in at least one walk-on success story with each recruiting class, and in the Class of 2006, Rob Smith just might end up being that next rags to riches tale.
"I had offers to walkon at Illinois and Indiana, in addition, to Iowa, but I felt Iowa easily had the nicest facilities," Smith told Scout.com. "Their fans are really into football, and they have real good coaches. It's impressive to see the # of walkons who have contributed to their program in making the two deeps and eventually earning a scholarship. They've also sent walkons onto the NFL."
Smith was a virtual unknown to the Hawkeye coaching staff until this past January when a coaching connection of offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe's paid dividends.
"Our high school's defensive coordinator, Dale Sprague, coached against Coach O'Keefe on the division three level in college," added Smith, who holds a 3.2 GPA and scored a 23 on the ACT. "He had me send my tape out to Iowa, and then about a week or two before Signing Day, he received a call back from Coach O'Keefe asking if I'd be interested in walking-on."
"I took a visit out there in February while their coaches were on a cruise, but one assistant, Scott Southmayd, gave me a tour of all the facilities. Like I said, they had the nicest facilities I had seen of any of the schools I visited."
After deciding that he would join the Hawkeyes as a walkon, Smith made a return visit to Iowa City where he was able to meet the coaches and watch a spring practice.
"I got to sit in one of the film sessions with Coach (Phil) Parker and all the defensive backs. I could tell that I'm going to have a lot to learn in picking up their defense. Coach Parker told me he likes his guys to break on the ball quickly, tackle well, and play aggressively," Smith stated.
"When I spoke to Coach (Norm) Parker, he told me that cornerback is where he thought I'd play. Both Coach Parker's, and even Coach Ferentz, told me they were excited for me to come in, and wanted me to focus on track this spring and staying in shape."
Smith is currently rehabbing a tweaked hamstring, but has a personal best of 10.9 in the 100 meter dash.
After his meeting with the coaches, Smith made his way out to the practice field.
"It was their first day in full pads, and I was definitely in awe to see how much bigger and faster everyone is on that level," added Smith, who in nine games, Smith recorded 113 tackles, six forced fumbles, two recovered fumbles, two interceptions, and one sack. "It really motivated me to work as I hard as I can to come fully prepared in the fall."
As stated above, Smith has only played two seasons of organized football, and played safety in both those seasons.
"It is a whole different ball game on the division one level, and I know I'm going to have to work hard to make the transition to cornerback. I have to work my quick turn and just getting bigger and faster. I'm ready for the opportunity, though, I can tell you that," Smith concluded.