MARIETTA, Ga. -- When Walton High School lost in the playoffs to Parkview (Ga.) High School in the recent Class AAAAAA playoffs, no one present could say that it was for lack of effort. The Panthers upset a Raiders team that was beset with injuries. Multiple starters hobbled onto the field, covered in yards of trainer's tape, only to lose in the second overtime, 20-17.
Cornerback D.J. Smith did everything possible to pull his team through but to no avail. With Alabama running back commit Tyren Jones out for the season, Smith was pressed into service at tailback, racking up 95 yards and a touchdown. He also made an acrobatic catch on a 16-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone from Alabama quarterback commit Parker McLeod, who was playing on two bad ankles. In the second overtime, Smith rushed for 14 yards on the first play, setting up a first-and-goal situation but the Raiders were stonewalled and Parkview escaped with the victory.
Such dynamic plays are why Smith has offers from Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan State, Nebraska, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
Well, that and the fact that he is a physical, shut-down defensive back who smart offensive coordinators avoid in their play calling. Smith has been a fan of the Gators growing up, but is keeping his options open.
“Florida is up there,” Smith said. “I went to the Swamp a couple times and I went to Florida State. I was supposed to go to Georgia, but my parents didn’t want to go because we are going out of town. So we will go another time.”
Taking in a game in Tallahassee was a new experience for Smith and his early infatuation with the Gators will not preclude him from suiting up for their biggest rival.
“Florida State was fun and loud,” Smith said. “They played well in the game against Clemson that had a good offense and a good defense. I liked it up there. I could play for the Seminoles. I could play for any team.”
That is good news to the other programs that have offered Smith who plays on a team with Georgia center commit Brandon Kublanow. Jones, McLeod and Kublanow have all been through the recruiting process and have the same message for the ESPN Watch List cornerback.
“They tell me not to pay attention to it and not to get a big head,” Smith said. “Just keep playing football.”