ORLANDO – Nick Smith has picked out his college and successfully made the switch to a new position. Now, he’s aiming to go out on top in his senior season.
Smith, a 6’3″, 215-pounder has tacked on 20 lbs. since the end of his junior year. He’s moving from defensive end to outside and middle linebacker. Smith recorded 91 tackles (24 for a loss), six sacks and a pick as a junior.
After serving as a full-time starter at defensive end the last two seasons, he shifted to the linebacker spot he’ll call the plays in the middle and bounce outside often. Smith earned reps at linebacker late last season and now says he has no worries about the transition to a new position.
“Outside linebacker has been very easy, but middle linebacker is more confusing,” Nick Smith told Prep Sports Scouting. “Dylan Meeks got injured so now I’m mostly there calling all the plays.”
The Panthers have made it to two straight 8A region finals after being bounced by Plant in the region semifinal the three seasons prior. Smith wants to take care of business this year.
“Last year I felt more experienced. I was leader, stepped up and made more plays for our team. We tried to get the job done, but it didn’t happen. Now we got to keep working. Work over the summer with the underclassmen and hopefully, we can end my senior year with a state championship.”
Starting his football career at age 5, Smith played running back, quarterback and a bit of defense up until high school. He says he didn’t take defensive end too seriously until he arrived at Dr. Phillips three years ago.
When did Smith gain the confidence he has now? He says that came as a freshman.
“We did one-on-ones and it just clicked for me. It was pretty easy so I was like ‘I might as well make a living out of this now.’ Ever since then it’s been easy.”
In his first season as a starter as a sophomore, Smith totaled 52 tackles (10 for a loss) and three sacks. He doubles as a shooting guard for the basketball which he says helps with his athleticism, footwork and overall strength.
He says his quick first step is his biggest strength while he’s aiming to prove to everyone that he can hold his own in coverage this season and beyond. He’ll play defensive end and even strong safety at times this year.
Smith decided to take his talents to North Carolina when he verbally committed to North Carolina State on July 25.
He says it really came down to being comfortable with everything the school had to offer.
“Not just me but how comfortable my family was. They trust the coaching staff. My mom built a great relationship with coach [Dave] Doeren. We went up there one time and he really made me change my mindset. Then another time for a camp and it was a great vibe there. I felt like it was the best fit for me.”
He says that North Carolina was a close second. Smith currently has 23 total offers which he trimmed down to eight including Maryland, Louisville, Nebraska, Syracuse, Rutgers and Arizona as well. He’ll be asked to play Will linebacker at NC State.
Under head coach Rodney Wells, the Panthers have gone 57-9 since he took over the job in 2011. Smith calls it a great experience to play for coach Wells.
“We have a lot of fun in practice, but he’s not going to sugarcoat anything. He’s a straight up coach. It’s great knowing that he’s been through the process and he can help us out with it.”
Four people make Smith’s list of biggest role models, his mom, dad, stepdad and grandmother.
“They’ve been through so much and they hid a lot from as a child. But they did a really good job making everything happen for me and I wouldn’t be in the spot I’m in without them.”
His father Fernando Smith played nine seasons in the NFL from 1994-2000 as a defensive end with Minnesota, Jacksonville, Baltimore and St. Louis. Smith wants to play in the NFL as well, but he has big plans in place as he is set to major in business.
“I’m not going to let football use me. I’m going to use football to open more doors for me. If I can make it all the way that would be great but right now I’m just using it to get my education and free school.”
As a two-sport athlete, Smith is one of those kids that stands out whether he’s on the football field or the basketball court. He’s smart, confident and very down to earth.
On the gridiron where he has a bright future, Smith is going to make big splash plays for Dr. Phillips as they contend once again. Nick Smith is a guy who should thrive at the next level.
Favorite player to watch – Raiders LB Khalil Mack and Broncos LB Von Miller, Texas A&M LB Myles Garrett
Favorite movies – Ride Along, Harry Potter series
Favorite TV show – South Park
Fun fact about you that you think no one knows – “When I was younger I used to want to be a gymnast. I just like flipping, back flips, front flips and all that.
Game film: Smith’s Hudl tape
Photo credit: Orlando Sentinel
Jake Perper is the scout for Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to write below or email Jake at firstname.lastname@example.org.