From South Bend, Ind., Daniel Smith’s older sister was a student at Notre Dame, and began to date Irish safety Gerome Sapp.
“My Dad grew up playing soccer, so my family always liked it,” Smith began. “He’s from Honduras, and coming here, football wasn’t a big thing for him. When Gerome came in, we started going to Notre Dame games all the time. That got my interest in playing football.”
Now college programs have taken an interest in the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Smith.
Smith will be one of the top receivers in the Midwest in the recruiting class of 2010. Notre Dame is on him early, as is Purdue, Iowa, Illinois and Louisville. More schools are certainly going to come after the Clay High standout in the future.
Sapp, who has played safety in the NFL for the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, is now Smith’s brother-in-law.
“I tell him if I’m about to go to a combine, I call him and he tells me stuff I need to do,” Smith said. “He is really the one who taught me the game of football to tell you the truth. I used to play soccer until I met him. He used to tell me all the rules. He has pretty much taught me everything I know about football.”
Sapp has done well.
As a freshman, Smith was an all-Northern Indiana Conference (same league that produced Braxston Cave, Mike Macellari, Thomas Bemenderfer and Bryan Mattison) performer, hauling in 49 passes for 800 yards and eight scores. A marked man this past fall, Smith was still all-league and good for 30 receptions for another 400 yards and eight more touchdowns.
“I’m double teamed on every play,” Smith said. His first time playing organized football was seventh grade. “They always have one person in front of me to jam, and they always have someone 10 yards downfield to take away the deep ball.
“I think I can not only catch the deep ball, but I feel I can also catch short routes. I can jump and go get the ball. I like to jump basically.”
That’s evident when you look at Smith’s high jump and long jump numbers. He finished third in both events at Indiana’s Indoor Track and Field State Championships earlier this year. He cleared 6-foot-4 in high jump, and jumped 22-0.5 in long jump. The sophomore is a medal contender in both events at outdoor state next month.
Smith runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds, and also runs a leg on Clay’s 1600-meter relay team that will also contend for an outdoor medal. They finished sixth at indoor state.
Notre Dame has gotten quite a few looks at Smith. He has camped there, attended a few games on unofficial visits, and was one of two sophomores invited to the program’s second junior day.
Irish assistant coaches Corwin Brown and Bernie Parmalee have been by the school.
“They’re just interested in me,” Smith said. “I know it’s too early for them to talk about taking me, but I don’t know how to explain it. They’ve shown interest so far, it’s really just hard to explain. On my visits there, I’ve gotten acquainted with the campus and they’ve shown me what Notre Dame football is going to be like if I were to play there.
“I camped there this summer, and I’m also going to return this summer coming up. This time, I got to see there recruits. Michael Floyd and a lot of the other receivers were there. I saw what level I need to be on. (Coach Rob Ianello) gave us some one-on-one tips. That was the first time I got to know him there.”
Smith and his parents have gotten a couple opportunities to talk with head coach Charlie Weis as well.
“Coach Weis said he likes how I have a level head and I have good grades,” Smith said. He has a 3.6 GPA. “He said it shows that school is important to me. When he told me that, he said of course I look for good football players, but it’s an advantage that I have good grades.
“The first time I talked to him was at one of the games I went to. He talked to me and my parents. Then junior day, he talked to them.”
Besides the Midwest programs showing interest, Smith said Texas has called and asked for film as well.
Smith took an unofficial trip to Purdue this past season. He plans to possibly camp at Iowa. A college verbal commitment is a long ways away, but Smith has an idea of what he’s looking for.
“Really, if I go to a school, I want my education,” Smith stated. “I have to be able to get a job if I couldn’t take it to the next level. It has to be highly respected. I take pride in my education.”
Notre Dame is definitely in good position with Smith at this point in the recruiting process, and will likely be a major player up until signing day February 2010.
“I’m really interested because my sisters went to Notre Dame,“ Smith said. “We just have a background there with my sister and brother in law that went to Notre Dame.
“When I visited, they said it’s not like other schools here at Notre Dame. They said here the players are promoted more. If you play here, you’ll be seen every week. And they don’t just look for football players, they look for good people with good grades that just have a level head.”