For every player who goes to a summer college camp with a known name and an invite, there are plenty that show up hoping to gain exposure and showcase their skills. Virginia linebacker Chad Smith falls into the latter group.
After Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson stopped by during spring practice at Dominion High (Sterling, Va.), Smith decided to attend State's last Advanced Skill Camp of the summer June 22. It didn't take long for coaches to begin learning his name.
The most important, of course, was Lion linebacker leader Ron Vanderlinden. The Class of 2015 member was surprised the longtime assistant spent time talking with him after camp. After all, he had only really said hello Johnson during the spring and hadn't had contact with State's staff since.
Plenty of conversations are likely to come in the future for the 6-foot-3, 202-pound linebacker, though. With a preference for playing outside but with the ability to play inside, Smith has an offer from North Carolina-Charlotte and interest from Clemson, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, South Carolina, Richmond and New Hampshire.
After camping though, he feels he can add the Lions to that list.
"After the camp, I talked to Coach Van and he said I did very well, and that he likes the way I play linebacker and my athleticism," Smith explained. "He said he would love for me to come see the place and stay a bit longer, and that's when we toured the football facilities and I talked to Coach Johnson.
"He said, ‘Coach Van really likes you, and we're definitely going to be recruiting you in the future,' and that they would love to see some game film. I came into camp expecting great coaching, and that's exactly what I got."
The junior-to-be said he liked the way State operated its camp, and also was pleasantly surprised by a lunchtime film session in which he, the other linebackers in attendance and Vanderlinden broke down and evaluated not only the film from the morning camp session, but also film from last fall's Nittany Lion team, too.
He was pleased by the feedback he received, and also the competition presented at University Park. When it came to lining up opposite running backs and wideouts in one-on-one and seven-on-seven work, Smith said he felt he stood out working with the first group, and that "made me feel good."
The weight room also made him feel good.
"I really liked their entire player facility. I toured some other college facilities, and [Penn State's] weight room really stood out," he said. "They showed me some quarters where players will come in if they need extra study time, and they showed us the locker room and some other stuff.
"Everything impressed me overall, but they had an excellent weight room. "
Smith is also high on PSU strength coach Fitzgerald, saying "he's really motivated to bring out the best in each player."
Eager to learn more about Penn State, Smith noted he and his father have already begun exploring the possibility of returning to University Park for a fall home game. He wants to see what the environment and a typical game day is like at Penn State.
In the meantime, he'll keep enjoying the recruiting process. It hasn't really taken off just yet, but is looking forward to when it does. He's also looking forward to hearing more from Penn State now that it knows what he is capable of.
"Penn State was just one of the schools that me and my dad talked about going to, because it's ‘Linebacker U,'" Smith said. "It was pretty exciting, and good to talk to them. I'm going to send them some junior game film and go from there."