Hakeem Smith preparing for senior season

University of Louisville strong safety Hakeem Smith, who is present on the three national award watch lists, discusses his upcoming senior season with Cardinal Authority.

Since spending his freshman season as a redshirt in 2009, Hakeem Smith has become a fixture in the University of Louisville secondary. The product of Jonesboro (Ga) Riverdale, Smith made his first career start against Eastern Kentucky in the second game of the season in 2010 and hasn't left the starting unit since.

Entering his senior campaign, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound strong safety has been among the team's top three tacklers every season and has earned All-Conference honors every year.

As he enters his senior season, Smith has been named to multiple award watch lists. The fifth-year senior is present on the Jim Thorpe, Bronko Nagurski and Bednarik Award Watch Lists.

"It's great, but I don't worry to much about it," said Smith of the preseason honors. "It's nice to have your name out there like that and know that people are aware of what you can do."

As a four-year starter, Smith has been viewed as one of the leaders in the secondary, but it is an area that he anticipates taking a larger role with in 2013.

"Since this will be my fourth year starting, I'm kind of used to that already," he explained. "I'm working on being more vocal and getting guys going. I need to have more of a voice out there."

Teaming up with junior safety Calvin Pryor, the pair are considered one of the top safety tandems in the nation. The pair agree with that assessment and approach each game with that mentality.

"We go and play every game like we know how," Smith told Cardinal Authority. "Calvin and I see ourselves as one of the best duos in the nation, so we try to go out and compete every day like we are."

With the loss of cornerback Adrian Bushell to graduation, and the need to develop depth, the Cardinals will have a few new faces playing in the secondary this fall.

"You going to see Jermaine Reve, he is going to be working at corner now and he's going to get a lot of playing this year," said Smith. "There might be some of the freshmen getting time. You might see some Richard Benjamin and Terrence Ross. [Sophomore safety] Gerod Holliman is going to be playing out there a lot."

The Cardinals will begin preparations for the upcoming season on August 6, with the season opener against Ohio University slated for September 1.

"Camp is camp, but it is going to be great to have our pads back on," he said.

Preparing for his final year wearing the Red and Black, Smith's goal is to maximize every moment on the practice field and on game days.

"I have to cherish every moment," he said. "I don't want it to fly by. I can't miss a moment or lose a step. I have to be on my game every day."

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