Arkansas takes unique path to Georgia football signee

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema (AP file)

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema (AP file)

One of my favorite things about covering college football recruiting is listening to stories from the recruiting trail.

A good one I heard about this year involved T.J. Smith, the defensive end from Colquitt High School. He flipped from Vanderbilt to Arkansas a couple of weeks before last month’s signing day.

“It was a very unique recruiting story,” Arkansas coach Bret Bielema told the AJC on Thursday. “We actually had our running backs coach in North Carolina checking out a running back at his old high school (last spring). He saw TJ and liked him. He said ‘What’s the deal here?’ And the coach said, ‘TJ is actually transferring to Colquitt.’ So we started tracking him that way.

“It was totally ironic way of finding him, I guess. So during my bye week, we went in there and TJ at the time was probably weighing 230 or 240 pounds. He was undersized defensive end that was really intriguing. He has a great family. Both his mom and dad are in education. His dad is a junior high principal. All the things we look for, they were there. He came for an official visit, and he weighed 280 pounds. He had put on around 40 pounds in last few months, and he had really grown into a man.

“When we brought him in on a midweek visit, I was a little nervous. Midweek visits always scare me. But he went to a class, and he sat in a class that was in the major that he’s looking to go into. He met and visited with our coaches. I wasn’t even here on campus. It was in middle of the week. I came in (later on), and he committed to us about two hours after I got onto campus.

“I think he was going from our place to Wake. He canceled that. His mom and dad canceled their flights, and he has been a happily-married man ever since.”

Smith was the only Georgia signee for Arkansas this year. The Razorbacks have three others players from Georgia on its roster, including former South Paulding High School inside linebacker Khalia Hackett.


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