Ohio redshirt junior Kendric Smith has seen his football voyage go from Harker Heights to Baton Rouge, La., to Brenham before finally finding a home with the Bobcats in Athens, Ohio.
Today Smith and the Bobcats (7-5) defense will have an early bowl showcase when they play the East Carolina Pirates (9-3) in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Smith, a former Heights standout, had 17 tackles and two sacks in 10 games in his second full season as a Bobcat.
The game kicks off at 1 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.
How excited are you for the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl?
I’m really excited. This is really my first time going to Florida, so I’m going to be in a warm climate area like where I came from. I’m really excited.
What was it like to take your path from a walk-on at LSU to ultimately playing for Ohio University?
I learned a lot from that and I saw a lot of great players. I always wanted to be a scholarship football player so I had to move on from LSU to Blinn where they gave me an opportunity to
play and make it to the next level. After I graduated from Blinn, Ohio became interested in me and I was really excited because Ohio was interested in me out of high school, but it never actually happened. I just wanted to make it happen for me and it worked out perfectly.
It seems like you didn’t want to let the goal of being a scholarship football player die.
I always had a relentless attitude and I marketed myself coming out of high school to different schools. That was the dream of mine, so letting it slip away after LSU didn’t work out, I didn’t see that happening. I was going to work hard and pursue my dreams. I wanted to prove all the naysayers wrong and anybody that doubted me that I can make it to another program, be successful and be on scholarship.
What sold you on Ohio?
I marketed myself and sent my tape to them that day at about 8 a.m. At about 1 p.m., I was already meeting with the defensive line coach, who was in that area at that time. He had just pulled up to Blinn Community College and it just worked out perfectly. I felt like that had to be a sign from God and that was the direction God was pointing me in because it just worked out so perfectly.
What is it about Blinn that gets players ready for NCAA Division I?
Blinn is a good program. A lot of those guys have a lot of talent and a lot of them didn’t have the grades to make it to the D-I level. It’s really like D-I players in a juco (junior college) that have a lot of talent and were able to show their talent and flourish at the next level. They already have that talent; they’re just developing their skills so when they’re on the big stage they can do really well. They’re really hungry to get out of that junior college lifestyle and get into a bigger university. I think that’s what makes a lot of them successful.
Has Division I football been everything you expected it to be?
I would say yes. It’s a little different from LSU, but it’s really serious at this level. The coaches are really serious; they take their jobs serious. It’s like I dreamed it would be growing up, definitely.
Have you ever watched the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl?
If I have, I never knew it was the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. I always knew certain bowls were on and I always paid attention to big bowls, so this is going to be new to me.
How do you handle being in such a different environment from Texas?
I think it was better for me to get some experience at LSU and at Blinn. My third year in college I was ready to go off into the northern part of the country and be a little farther away from my family. I think I was more mature at that moment to take on any obstacles that were going to come my way. It’s a lot different weather-wise with more snow. Where I’m from, they’ll close down school if they see a speck of snow falling down. It’s a lot different functioning and doing what you’d do in bad weather and great weather.
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