"I had heard about Chris in grade school," said Smith, a big man with an affable personality. "A good friend of mine referred him to me at our high school. And when he came aboard it was a great situation for him and for us. I had been a line coach for a long time, so we speak the same language. We quickly developed a very good relationship."
Smith knew that Palmer was going to be good, and it didn't take long for the latter to show his considerable skills.
"For a big man, his athleticism is eye popping," said Smith, who has long experience with linemen on both sides of the ball. "He has a tremendous vertical leap. He runs well, and he just explodes off the ball. He's like a freak of nature."
Unlike some youngsters with extraordinary skills, Palmer isn't boastful off the field. He has the "flip the switch" mentality espoused by WVU head Coach Rich Rodriguez, which preaches high-level intensity on the field, but toned-down, respectful behavior off.
"He's very modest around older people and off the field," said Smith, who agreed wholeheartedly with the "flip the switch" description. "Among his peers and in the football environment he is very vocal. He's spirited and he plays a t a high level, and brings all the intangibles that you want on the field.
"I was impressed when he came into the program, because he was a guy who immediately turned us up another level. His practice habits were great, and his enthusiasm is a great example for his teammates. He wanted to prove he was a top player and motivate the others, and that's what he has done."
Smith was very happy for Palmer and his decision to attend West Virginia, and not just because his star player will be competing at the highest levels of Division 1 football. He's also pleased with the West Virginia coaching staff, which holds many of the same principles and values as he does.
"The West Virginia coaches, they are just as real as people can be. They are the kind of guys you would like to sit down and have a beer with and talk football. They don't pull any punches, even with the success they have had. They are still the same guys. The quality players and people they are pulling in, I am sure they will continue being successful.
They have recruited two kids that I knew before Chris – Greg Isdaner and Steve Slaton. Those are quality kids and quality players. They are really building a great program there, and if they keep bringing in players like that, they are just going to keep getting better."