Mr. Smith Goes To San Antonio

A future Ohio State Buckeye, Colerain's Connor Smith, was a first-team All-Ohio performer, he was selected to the Parade All-American team and he was named the Gatorade Player Of The Year in Ohio this year. Now the 6-5, 295-pound guard will take time off from basketball for a chance to play with and against some other talented football players around the country who have won similar gridiron awards as he has when he suits up for the East squad in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Despite losing to the eventual Division I state champion, St. Xavier, twice in the same season, Connor Smith of Colerain High School has no regrets about his team's season in general and his own performance, in particular, during the Cardinals' 10-2 campaign.

"Obviously there's going to be a little disappointment coming off of a state championship like we had last year but I thought my team and all of our players and our coaches fought hard and we prepared the best that we could," said Smith whose team both started the season and ended it with a loss to the Bombers. "We fought hard and there is no regrets about anything that happened or how it ended. We played hard as a team and on an individual basis I accomplished everything that I wanted to accomplish so I was pretty happy with the season."

In addition to him being picked to play on the East squad in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, the 6-5, 295-pound offensive guard earned first-team All-Ohio honors and was just recently named to the Parade All-American team. And he was quietly chosen to be the Gatorade Player Of The Year in Ohio as well.

"I want to give all of the credit to the support that I had. We had a great team and I had a bunch of great coaches and I had a lot of support from my home," Smith said. "I had a lot of things going for me that I felt I was very fortunate and blessed to have and I feel like it was a great honor to win the Gatorade Player Of The Year."

On the season, Smith, who was the top-rated offensive lineman in the Midwest according to, successfully executed 90 percent of his blocking assignments and recorded 150 pancake blocks.

"I played every play as hard as I could, like it was my last play, and I improved a lot from my junior year to my senior year," he said, " so I was happy with that."

Smith immediately moved on to basketball after his football season came to an end but the Cardinals, at 1-6 to this point, haven't fared nearly as well on the hardwood obviously as they did on the gridiron this past year.

"Basketball helps me athletically and it helps me with my feet and it helps me to stay in shape," Smith said. "But I don't see why you can't train for both. I still work out and lift regularly and lift hard. My approach isn't necessarily to train for this Bowl game, but my goal is just to get stronger so I can prepare to play football for Ohio State."

Smith verbally committed to Ohio State on July 31 and will represent the Big Ten Co-Champions in the All-American Bowl.

"I want to represent the city of Cincinnati and my team here at Colerain as well," Smith said. "I'm just going to go out there and compete to the best of my ability and do the best that I can. I just feel very fortunate to be selected to play in the game."

Admittedly Smith has no idea what to expect during the week in San Antonio but he's certainly looking forward to finding out.

"I don't know really, I'll be honest with you. This is a whole new experience for me," he said. "I've never talked to anyone that's played in this game or heard anything about it. So I'm going into this not knowing what to expect but I'll be prepared for anything I guess."

He is very much, however, looking forward to blocking for Chris Wells, his future Ohio State teammate, in the game.

"Sure Chris is a great guy, I've spoken with him a couple of times," said Smith who will take his official visit to Ohio State the weekend after he plays in the All-American Bowl. "He sounds like a really great person and I know that he's a great player so I'm sure he's the kind of person you want to block really hard for."

But the All-American trip for Smith won't really be worthwhile unless he is able to come back home to Cincinnati with a victory.

"I always try to win. I really don't like losing all that much. It's not something that I enjoy," he said. "Anytime you put on the equipment or play anything, you want to win. Is that what this game is all about? I'm not sure. You have people coming together for a week so I don't know how much ‘team' will be a part of it but sure you want to go down there and get a win."

Whatever the outcome, however, Smith is just excited about the opportunity that's in front of him.

"I really love it. This is going to be a lot of fun," he said. "It's what I love to do. It's my favorite thing to do. Anytime you get a chance to play football you're going to be happy."

And while he's in San Antonio preparing for the game, Smith is hoping for a chance to watch the Fiesta Bowl. With Ted Ginn Sr. as the East head coach, the chances are favorable that the team will find time in their schedule to see the game on television.

"I'm very excited about the Ohio State game and hopefully I'll get to watch it down there with Chris and some of the other guys," Smith said. "I'm really looking forward to it."

And Ohio State fans are really looking forward to watching Smith perform in the All-American Bowl in what should be a great ending to a very solid prep football career for Smith.

"Individually it's a great honor but there's nothing like winning the state championship," Smith said. "It's a great honor, I guess we'll find out, but I wouldn't trade it for my state championship, I don't think."

Gary Housteau will be in San Antonio on Jan. 3 and will file reports from there during the week leading up to the All-American Bowl on Saturday.

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