Ocoee three-star OLB/DE Calvin Smith announces his college decision

Editor’s note: Ocoee rising senior outside linebacker/edge rusher Calvin Smith has written the following first-person story to announce where he’ll play college football.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Smith is a three-star recruit, the No. 1 96 edge rusher in the nation and the No. 179 overall player in Florida on the 247Sports composite rankings. His final three schools are Illinois, Pitt and Rutgers.

Smith had 62 total tackles and tied with Jordan Phillips (currently a freshman at Tennessee) for a team-best 29 tackles in 2021. He also was second on the team with 10 sacks and 12 quarterback hurries.

Recruiting is tough.

There are so many schools and some of them are telling you lies. They want to get you to their school to help them, not to help you.

I was fortunate that I had good guidance. If I didn’t, I would have shut it down a while ago and I’m certain that I would have committed to a school that I wouldn’t be happy going to. Because of the guidance I received during the process, I’m positive that I made the right choice.

I relied on my dad a lot for guidance throughout this process. He helped me with what I needed to look for and it helped a lot. Everything he did helped. He told me, ‘look at this, look at that, look at how many guys they have at your position.’

He never told me to go to this place or that place. He helped me set up my official visits, but it was all my choice.

My mom helped a lot. She doesn’t know much about football at all, but she’s big into education. She supported me all the way through and made sure I stayed on the right path.

I want to thank A,G. Waseem. He helped me get my first two offers from FAU and Marshall. That helped me a lot and it got other schools to start looking at me and it just kind of took off from there. I really appreciate that.

I’m blessed to announce that I’m taking my talents to the University of Illinois.

I love the coaching staff, especially coach Kane, coach Bielema and coach Walters. They’re easy to talk to. They don’t have a persona when they’re recruiting you.

I like the way they’re going to use me. I wanted to stand up and 95 percent of the time their outside linebackers and defensive ends stand up. I feel like I can be different at Illinois from everyone else on their roster. I’m a different type of athlete. I rely a lot on my speed, my length and my reaction time, too. I have strength but I like to use my speed.

Honestly, when I went there on my official visit, I was thinking I was going to go through the motions. When I got up there, It 100 percent changed my mind. When I got to Illinois, it felt like I should be there. The first day was great and the second day solidified it.

The veterinary school at Illinois was a huge factor for me. When it came down to my last two schools, one had a vet school and one didn’t. Illinois has one of the 32 best vet schools in the country. Growing up, I’ve always had animals, different pets like horses, turtles and fish. They’ve always been a part of my life. Early in life I decided I wanted to be a vet. I couldn’t even say when, but from a young age I wanted to be a vet.

Knowing that I’m going to Illinois is definitely relieving.

I’m 100 percent blessed to find the perfect fit for me.

FamILLy!