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March 23, 2011When Geno Smith watches a college football game, his eyes are focused on the action, but his ears are fixed on the words coming from the announcers.
He listens closely to what they say and how they say it.
He makes mental notes of their analysis.
And he scrutinizes their ability to take complex plays and explain them to the masses.
"Sometimes, I can predict what they're going to say," Smith said.
Someday down the road, he just might be up in the booth.
Sports broadcasting "is definitely something I could see myself doing," Smith said. "I have a good grasp of the game, and I feel like I could be a pretty good announcer."
As a player, Smith is better than pretty good. Much better.
A 6-foot, 170-pound junior cornerback from Atlanta's St. Pius X School, he currently has 26 scholarship offers. Next January, he will play in the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
"He is a taller, lean corner with excellent change of direction and ball skills," Rivals.com national analyst Barry Every said. "But where he is at his best is coming out of his backpedal. One of the quickest I have ever seen."
Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Louisville, LSU, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, North Carolina, N.C. State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Purdue, South Carolina, Stanford, Tennessee, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Virginia Tech have offered, making Smith easily among the country's most sought-after players in the class of 2012.
Not bad for an athlete that was "one of the small kids" when he started playing the game at age 4.
"I have always been thin," Smith said.
Despite that, Smith claimed he has never shied away from contact. Not during his youth football days. And not even as a 155-pound sophomore starter for St. Pius.
"It doesn't bother me at all," Smith said. "Growing up, I was taught that contact is important. You can't be afraid of it. My weight wasn't a problem. I didn't think about it much. I just did what I've been taught about tackling."
Smith's lack of bulk clearly hasn't been an issue. He recorded 11 interceptions over the past two seasons, those statistics no doubt aided by his speed (runs 100-meter dash in 10.8 seconds) and athleticism (33-inch vertical leap).
Smith also is getting it done in the classroom, which is expected considering his mom is a teacher. He carries a 3.2 GPA.
"He's always had a good foundation," said Gina Matias, Smith's mom. "There has always been stability, always been time to do homework. I've always asked to see what was required of him and I was involved."
Smith isn't only a solid student, he's a student of college football. Even in elementary school, he looked forward to National Signing Day, according to his mother.
"I remember once, he had me stop so he could get the paper," Matias recalled. "He wanted to see who signed with all the different schools. He spent the whole day with that paper. I have memories of him sitting in front of the TV with some popsicles on draft day just waiting for the draft to begin. "
For years, Smith dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, according to his mother. But as his play on the football field reached an advanced level, another possible career track entered his mind. It is one that, for Smith, seems like a natural fit.
"He always said he wanted to be a vet, but now that football has started to take off, I think being a vet may be kind of far-fetched because of all the requirements he'll have from football," Matias said. "Within the last six months, he's really talked about broadcasting. I think it'll take some work, but he seems to have a passion for it."
Right now, Smith said he is "75-percent sure" he will study broadcasting in college. Should he choose that path, Smith thinks it is something at which he can succeed.
"I'm just knowledgeable," Smith said. "I do research. I'm always on the computer, looking up statistics, watching older games and looking up information. I can name all the players. I'm on the computer every day. I was just on Rivals yesterday looking at who had write-ups from the five-stars."
And, there is this:
"I'm pretty confident with how I talk," Smith said. "Sometimes I feel like (announcers) don't explain things as well as they should. I would bring a great personality, and give lots of details so everyone would understand - even people just learning about football. I would be the person to explain it, to make it fun, make it entertaining."
Smith has a clear favorite when it comes to college football announcers.
"Verne Lundquist," Smith said. "His voice is what gets me about him. He has that voice inflection. It captures you. It's a different form than a lot of other broadcasters."
Might Lundquist, who currently works SEC football games and March Madness for CBS, be calling Smith's name soon?
That remains to be seen.
"Around the first of May, I'll probably have a top 12," Smith said.