Shonta played some football growing up in Fresno (Calif.), but spent more time surrounded by gangs and drugs.
"I grew up in a poverty area and made sure that my kids didn't go the route I went in life," Shonta told Scout. "That was the main thing that really excited me about him getting the chance to go to college."
It is no wonder when Tashon, a 6-foot-1 285-pound defensive tackle, received a scholarship offer and committed to the University of Southern California on Feb. 24 it brought tears to his father's eyes.
"It means a lot," Tashon said about his offer and commitment to the Trojans. "Growing up, my dad always wanted me to do better than how he did. It means a lot to my mom and my dad."
Earning a football scholarship is a goal Tashon has spent years working toward, but the reality of the opportunity still came as a surprise.
"We were just at Junior Day," Shonta recalled. "We were not expecting to get offered by USC."
The decision to commit to USC was practically a no brainer for the Smallwood family, though they consulted with Tashon's high school coach Tony Perry before giving a verbal pledge to the Trojans.
"I told [Tashon], ‘If you really like it, then it's going to be your choice'," Perry explained. "[Defensive line coach Ed] Orgeron and the guys, they sold it to him pretty good and it's in California. That's another thing, his mom and dad didn't want him to go very far."
The Smallwood's still make Fresno (Calif.) their home; it is just a three hour drive south to the campus of USC. Shonta has never missed one of his son's football games.
Although Tashon had been in communication with the USC coaching staff, he says the first time they saw him play was on film. It happened to be the day before he attended USC's Junior Day, the same day he gave his verbal commitment. "Orgeron was saying the type of linemen he coaches are like my playing style," Tashon explained, "he said that's what he loves to coach."
The Scout four-star recruit says no coach ever told him that before.
"I can't wait to play for Orgeron," he said.
The Trojans' defensive line coach won Tashon over in a day and only needed that same day to win Tashon's father as well.
"[Orgeron] said ‘I've got four kids at home and I'll treat your son like he's mind," Shonta recalled, before Orgeron added "You've got a scholarship sitting on the table for you."
Tashon still has offers from seven other schools, but says "It's ‘SC all the way."
I'm sticking with USC," he continued. "I'm glad to get it over with and I've got nothing to worry about now."
"He's a great kid," Perry said of the player the Trojans will add to their roster. "He's real quiet, does his school work. He's not going to have any problems."
"They are going to teach him how to approach people and how to represent USC as a man," Shonta said. "That's what I want the most for him."
Tashon is expected to sign a National Letter of Intent with USC Feb. 5, 2014.