And that may be even more true of Michael Smith than most.
"I'm a real mental football player; I like to outthink my competition," Smith said. "I pay a lot of attention to film, and I try to break down my opponents, looking for weaknesses. Then, once I'm on the field, I really go out there and play with a chip on my shoulder."
But rather than just stop there, Smith went on to talk about why he plays that way.
"Really, I'm playing for my mother, who died when I was nine," Smith said. "I want to make it for her, to let her know that I did it. A lot of kids can kind of get lost along the path, and go astray. I just try to stay focused so that I can do well and go get my degree."
Smith said he feels like his mom watches down on him every time he steps out on the field. She's also a big part of what he looks for in a college. Smith said he isn't tied down to playing in-state. Instead, he wants to go somewhere that feels like a family away from home, as well as a school where he can go get a great degree and develop his career.
"What would make a school feel most like home to me? I think it would just be a place where coaches and players were like a family," Smith said. "I want to go somewhere where everybody works to make everybody else better. And the atmosphere of the school should just have a nice, comfortable feeling when you're at the school."
Smith will have a chance to find that feeling, with a bevy of scholarship offers that includes Cincinnati, Clemson, Louisville, Marshall, Miami, Mississippi State, South Florida, UCLA, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
This week, the Texas Longhorns joined that list, with Smith hearing about the offer from his coach.
"I was really excited," Smith said. "They say Texas hasn't offered down here in Miami in [a long time]. They don't come all the way across the country a lot, so that was a really big honor."
Smith said he was interested to hear more about the Longhorns, and Texas was interested enough in Smith's game to extend an offer. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Smith is an intriguing prospect, somebody most schools are recruiting as a defensive end/linebacker hybrid. He mostly played defensive end as a junior, but said that he's moving back to linebacker for this season.
"We run a 4-3, and I'm going to get a chance to showcase my talent at linebacker this year," Smith said. "I'm really excited about that."