For a young man who likes to write computer programs and work on code in his spare time, it's obvious academics will play a significant role in his choice of a school. In order to be among his five finalists, Tennessee had to meet his litmus test for academic standards.
"I am looking at the overall academic performance of schools," Smith told The Insiders Mike Eubanks. "I do have a selected major I know that can change, so I want to go to a school where I can remain flexible without losing anything from the education. While early on it was a major part in determining which schools I would consider, it's turned into a moot point as all the schools I'm considering have met a base academic standard."
Smith's cerebral nature makes him rather unique in a sport that thrives on violent collisions and intense emotions, but he has found ways to incorporate those conflicting characteristics. For instance: As a pre-game ritual he shaves his head and likes to listen to Mozart, particularly the acclaimed composer's No. 40 and No. 41 symphonies. And he never intends to lose his true essence in a game that demands personal sacrifice and a team mentality.
"I have gone on some recruiting trips where being a strong academic student was unheard of," he said. "I have even been approached by fellow recruits asking, "Hey Big Al are you gonna go to some smart school?" I was honestly at loss as how to answer, but no, the two will never ever conflict. If they ever do, then I won't be playing football. My mother said so."
Smith has visited Arizona State, Notre Dame, UCLA and last week he was at Stanford. Tennessee is his fifth official visit, although he plans to take unofficial visits to both Notre Dame and Arizona State because he only had one day and night at those venues the first time. Although UT appears a long shot to land him, Smith does like the Vols success developing offensive linemen for professional football careers.
"Man, I've always wanted to play in the NFL and Tennessee has a tradition of great offensive lineman," he told The Insiders Chris Pool. "Tennessee loves to run the football."
Of course, Tennessee hasn't run the football as well in the past two seasons as it traditionally has, but the Vols are looking to reestablish the type of power running game upon which their best years under Fulmer were built. And a player of Smith's considerable depth and dimensions could certainly help.
So would the addition of 6-foot-6, 335-pound Roland Martin of Chicago, Ill., who will also be on hand this weekend for his official Tennessee visit. If the Vols could get both of these super sized top 20 prospects the running game could be well on the road to recovery.
However to land Smith, UT must appeal to his mind as much as his heart.