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September 18, 2004

Smith awaiting offer from "dream" school

Tallahassee (Fla.) Rickards running back/athlete Michael Smith attended school last week like it was any ordinary school day. Except early last week, while he was sitting in class, he was summoned to his head coaches' office. Smith was unaware why he was being called out of class, but when he made his way to the coaches' office standing there was Florida defensive backs coach Dan Disch.

"They called me out of class, and I had a tank top on and he was like, 'Wow! You are much bigger than what everybody at Florida thinks,'" Smith said. "I think that is the real reason why they haven't extended an offer. He was like, 'I have to get you down there to see the running backs coach (Mike Locksley), he can see you're real fast but you look smaller on film.' He is a great guy."

While Smith is waiting for the Gators to offer, he does have written offers from Auburn, Arkansas, Northwestern, Purdue and Clemson. He also has a verbal offer from West Virginia, and Notre Dame recently called him to talk about a possible offer later down the road.

"I have been really trying to concentrate on high school ball and finishing this last year, so I don't have a top five right now," he said.

Standing at 5-8 and 170 pounds, Smith has seen Disch's reaction before many times from various college recruiters. He said most coaches tell him on film he looks like 5-5 and 150 pounds. But regardless of his size and weight, teams are beginning to recognize what Smith brings to the table and his versatility on the field.

"It is pretty much the same thing as everybody else is saying - (they are recruiting me) as an athlete/running back/receiver/returner," Smith said.

Growing up in Tallahassee, Smith did not fall in line with locals as he shunned the Seminoles and grew up a fan of the Gators. He said he idolized former UF running backs Emmitt Smith and Fred Taylor.

"I have always had an interest in Florida, I just don't have an offer yet," he said.

Smith, who plans on attending the UF-Arkansas game next month, calls UF his "dream school" and at one time would have committed to UF if they offered.

"At one time it was Florida, but I don't know who it is right now," he said. "I have actually taken a closer look at everything instead of just wanting to go to my dream school. I am enjoying the process. It is interesting and fun. I know I only go through it once, so I am taking it all in stride and having a good time with it."

In the last game of the 2003 season, Smith tore his ACL and was sidelined for many months. It wasn't until fall practice that he was back in the swing of things. In fact, he said his ACL has healed nicely that he is again running a 4.3 40-yard dash.

Before his injury, Smith rushed for 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns on his way to honorable mention Class 3A All-State honors and first-team All-Big Bend honors. The ACL injury also sidelined Smith from playing baseball - a sport he is considering playing in college along with football.

"I have actually asked most of the schools that have offered or recruiting me could I play both?" he said. "Some of them say yes and some said that would be up to me. But they have made it clear that I will be there on a football scholarship. That will be the first priority, but I am pretty good at baseball."

The Atlanta Braves called Smith's mother over the summer and asked if she would bring her son to Atlanta for a tryout. Smith's mother thanked Atlanta for the opportunity, but told them her son will be attending college.

So with college in Smith's future, the next item on the agenda is picking a school he can settle into and academics are high on his list. Smith used to be in the International Baccalaureate program, and plans to major in pre-med. He has interned the past two years at Tallahassee Memorial a cousin had him interested in studying medicine. Smith has a 3.5 GPA and finished calculus and Spanish V as a junior.

"(The school) has to have a strong academic program," Smith said. "I want a nice atmosphere. Nice facilities will help. I mean I just want to be able to be comfortable year-round and not just during football season."

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