Thursday, April 17, 2014 —
It was last spring when North Stanly head coach Ralph Jackson was approached by a student who wanted more than anything to become a Divsion. I collegiate football player.
A year later, the recruting process for 6-foot-3 1/2 junior defensive lineman T.J. Smith is in full swing, including receiving his first offer to play football at the collegiate level.
Dartmouth College, out of the Ivy League, made an offer to Smith to play football for the Big Green at the Football Championship Series level.
“I’m very thankful,” Smith said about the offer.
“I thank God that I could achieve that. I had talked to their coach about a month-and-a-half ago. He said that he loved what I could do on film.”
The offer came via Jackson’s voicemail at North Stanly.
“T.J. came to us last spring at 215 pounds,” Jackson said.
“He has gone through the process, working in the weight room, and he is getting stronger and faster. For a solid year, we have worked on his athleticism and now he is up to 245 pounds.”
Smith said that Jackson approached him about switching from basketball to football as early as near the end of his fifth grade year.
“Coach told me that I had God-given size and ability and that I needed to be on the football field,” Smith said.
“I put my talents there and worked my butt off. He told me if I did what he said that I would be successful. With a lot of prayer and guidance from my coaches and teachers, I am where I am at now.”
A number of schools have shown interest in the Comet defensive lineman, including UNC, N.C. State, Arkansas, Auburn, UNC-Charlotte, North Carolina A&T, Duke and Clemson.
Smith talked about leaving the basketball world behind for football and what it feels like to be recruited for D-I football.
“It makes me feel great,” Smith said.
“In the basketball realm, it was not like that at all. I was not looked at and did not have the height. To move to something else and for my stature to be praised is great. I loved the looks I was getting and it helped me fall in love with football.”
Smith plans on graduating early next season in order to attend school in the spring of 2015, so the rising senior said that he plans to announce his commitment sometime in the 2014 high school football season.
In preparing for next season, Smith, along with a number of Comet players, meet every day in the weight room at 5 a.m. to work out.
Those preparations, according to Smith, are more about the team’s efforts next season than his own college recruiting status.
“Team comes first before all this stuff,” Smith said referring to recruiting.
“It’s all mental. This whole offseason is building mental toughness, and how close we can come together as a team in a short time to be successful.”
The Comets’ head coach talked about Smith’s preparations in the offseason, along with another D-I prospect, North running back Antonio Williams, who is verbally committed to UNC-Chapel Hill.
“Up here at North Stanly, what we do is get guys to understand a work ethic,” Jackson said.
“T.J. is here from 5-6:30 a.m. working out every morning. Antonio is there, and so is Nick Chandler, Austin Parker, Joey Clark and all of them in the morning session group. He (T.J.) believes what I have been preaching. He and Antonio are two special individuals.”
Regarding the workouts, Jackson said, “We work like it’s daylight.”
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