Austin Smith was ready to spend next season playing for the Independence (Kan.) Community College Pirates.
A phone call earlier this week quickly changed his plans.
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound tight end from Tidehaven (Texas) High School received a scholarship offer from Colorado coaches on Wednesday and on Friday announced his decision to play for the Buffaloes.
“I committed on the spot,” he said. “It’s really a blessing. One of my dream schools. I love Colorado and just getting to play on a big stage like that, getting to play teams like UCLA, USC and just being able to make my family proud on a big stage there. It’s beautiful up there, too.”
Smith, in fact, said he visited Colorado once when he was younger and, “I fell in love with it. I always said if I ever go to the NFL then I’ll retire and move to Colorado after.”
Despite his great size and production (631 yards, 10 touchdowns as a senior), Smith was under the radar in recruiting. He had seven offers from FCS schools, as well as from Air Force and Army, but he didn’t want to play at a service academy.
He chose to sign with ICC with hopes of getting an FBS offer later this year.
“I took that leap of faith and went JUCO and Colorado found me,” he said. “They originally were going to recruit me as a 2022 recruit, but they saw me run track and I ran some good times and they decided to pick me up for this year.”
Smith recently ran the 100 meters in 11.1 seconds at a high school track meet and CU coaches took notice. It also likely helped that ICC head coach Jason Martin is the younger brother of CU cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin.
“I think that played a really big role, just getting my name in the pot to begin with,” Smith said. “And, coach Martin at Indy being so gracious to let me out of that letter of intent at this point.”
Earlier this month, Smith received FBS offers from Fresno State and Liberty, while a few other Power 5 schools have expressed interest. CU pounced on the opportunity to get Smith.
“I was jumping out of my skin when they gave me the offer. It was crazy,” he said.
“I think (Smith’s family) is more excited than me, to be honest. I’m the first person in my school to ever go Power 5 to play football.”
Used mainly as a receiver in high school, Smith projects as a tight end at CU and he’s eager to get to Boulder in June and start working with his new team.
“I’m very determined,” he said. “I’ve been working out every day; every morning, every night just getting ready to shine. I’m ready to come up there and take over.”
CU head coach Karl Dorrell said Smith reminds him a bit of Marcedes Lewis, who played tight end at UCLA when Dorrell was the head coach. A first-round NFL draft choice in 2006, Lewis is preparing for his 16th season in the NFL.
Lewis was a basketball and football player and Dorrell said, “As soon as he decided to play football, Marcedes just took off. He was a tough guy to cover for anybody on the defense. Because of his length and size, he was a formidable receiver at the tight end position. Marcedes was a great blocker too.
“I think that this kid has that kind of potential. He’s a tremendous athlete. He’s gonna be a big target, plus he’s just learning the position. I think he has tremendous upside, so we feel like we found a gem there.”