No Days Off for Five-Star OT
This offseason is no vacation for Braden Smith. The 6-foot-6, 278-pound phenom from Olathe South is a five-star recruit, ranked the #2 offensive tackle in the class of 2014. Names like Nick Saban, Brian Kelly, and Urban Meyer fill the Smith family's caller ID. He is the most high-profile player to come out of the Kansas City area in years. But just because high school football season is over, the spotlight doesn't go away from the top-10 junior prospect. "You've got coaches coming in, and they want players," Olathe South Head Coach Jeff Gourley says. "The different schools we are seeing with Braden—Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Michigan," he trails off, shaking his head. "The amount of mail…the secretaries have to be sick of my mailbox." Gourley has coached high school football for 28 years in both Kansas and Missouri. He's never seen anything like the fervor surrounding his star junior. Neither have the secretaries at Olathe South. "We hadn't heard from Alabama in a while. Then, we get a four-inch stack of 77 handwritten letters from ‘Bama. Somehow, the story got out about the ‘Bama letters. Then, a few weeks ago, A&M sent 78 handwritten letters to his house." A year removed from winning the Kansas Class 6A State Championship, Olathe South missed the playoffs in 2012. After the season ended, Smith had no interest in taking time off. "Braden came to me and said, ‘Coach, I'm not happy about how the season went. I don't want that to happen again next year. Can I step into a leadership role now?'" The Falcon football players take over the weight room every day after school, much like Smith has taken over his new role: strength coach. "He doesn't work out," Gourley smiles. "He runs it. He gets so locked in when he lifts he can't pay attention to anything else. He lifts at home at night." As the appointed public relations man for the Braden Smith Camp, Gourley has done his best to help Smith through the recruiting process. He is, despite his massive frame, still a 16-year old kid. "It's a very unique situation," Gourley says, smiling. "The way it's been handled, with Braden off-limits to the media," he trails off again, laughing to himself. "He's just a junior, so it will pick up."
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