Anthony Smith knew four years ago what the future had in store for him at Bluffton High School.
The cornerback had become the first Bobcat to start every game as a freshman. It was at that point when the Canton, Ohio, native’s goals began to take shape.
“From the beginning I knew there was no one (at Bluffton) who had done anything like getting a scholarship to a FBS school, a big-time Division I school,” Smith recalled. “ ... It’s always been a goal since I was a child. It’s something that, for me, I expected to happen. I wouldn’t settle for less.”
Fast forward to Smith’s senior year and the cornerback is still setting program firsts for the Bobcats. His commitment last week to the U.S. Air Force Academy Falcons helped him become the first Bluffton player to receive a football scholarship to an FBS program.
“I knew in my mind that unless someone happened to do in the class ahead of me, then I’d be the first to do it,” Smith said. “It’s something I’ve set out to do since the beginning.”
Smith’s road to the Air Force Academy was anything but simple. The corner initially committed to Presbyterian College on Jan. 19 after taking a visit to the Clinton-based school before the Falcons came into the picture with an offer shortly thereafter.
“I liked it and I could see myself going there,” Smith said of the Blue Hose. “It was the best option for me at the time, for sure.”
A visit to Colorado Springs, Colo., last weekend changed his mind. It was there where he met with defensive coordinator Charlton Warren and head coach Troy Calhoun, who ultimately received Smith’s commitment on the spot after the Bluffton senior informed Presbyterian recruiters of his decision.
Smith, who was also offered by Wingate, will play for an Air Force team that went 6-7 last season and 5-3 in the Mountain West Conference.
The Falcons finished 72nd nationally in total defense, allowing 409.38 yard per game, and tied for 88th with eight interceptions.
That equaled the number of picks Smith had this year with the Bobcats, as the senior racked up a team-high eight interceptions to go along with 41 tackles, nine pass deflections and two forced fumbles. His efforts earned him a spot on The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette’s all-area first-team defense.
Smith will play for the Falcons’ Air Force Prep team next season while redshirting. While his 4.09 cumulative GPA was good enough for the Academy, his SAT score fell just 20 points shy of being able to suit up for Calhoun and Co. next year.
“It’s definitely an honor,” said Smith, who will also have the chance to return punts and kicks for the Falcons. “First and foremost, I thank God for giving me the ability to allow me to do the things I do. That’s what’s most important to me, is living right and spiritually being right.”
Smith was joined by three Bobcats teammates who also made pledges to schools this weekend, as running back Tykeem Major, safety Jaquan Campbell and corner Jeremy Scott all committed to Greenville Technical College. The junior college team went 12-0 last season under coach Richard Schrader.
Mallie Sprouse also hopes to play FBS football, as the kicker will attempt to walk on at South Carolina next season, coach Ken Cribb said. He has been working with former Gamecock kicker Adam Yates as he prepares for tryouts.
AREA FOOTBALL COMMITMENTS
(National Signing Day is Wednesday, Feb. 6)
Tyler Chisholm, K/P, Hilton Head Christian — S.C. State
Dee Delaney, WR/DB, Whale Branch — The Citadel
Michael Julian, QB, Hilton Head High — Toledo
Anthony Smith Jr., CB, Bluffton — Air Force
Jamario Williams, WR/DB, Hilton Head Christian — Wofford
Willie Doe, DL, Battery Creek — Newberry
C.J. Frazier, QB, Blufffton — Newberry
Jac’que Polite, OL, Ridgeland — Missouri Western State
J.D. Tuten, CB, Thomas Heyward — Berry
Jaquan Campbell, SS, Bluffton — Greenville Tech
Tykeem Major, RB, Bluffton — Greenville Tech
Jeremy Scott, CB, Bluffton — Greenville Tech
Tyrik Spicer, LB, Whale Branch — Edward Waters
Kyle Waddell, LB, Bluffton — Southeastern