Northeast's Smart: Where there's a Will ...
WHAT IF YOU only had one chance to seize an opportunity? Would you sacrifice and work for what you wanted? Or capture and cling to excuses instead, and then lament what went wrong?
Those questions became reality for Northeast High senior Will Smart entering the 2013 football season.
The 6-3, 230-pound offensive/defensive lineman lost his starting spot as a junior but dedicated himself to the craft in hopes of cultivating a college career.
"When I was in the weight room in the offseason, I said I had to work harder to make up for lost time," said Smart, a 16-year-old senior.
Hard work met opportunity and the result was a 12-sack season, according to first-year head coach Phil Gormley.
"Football aside, he's everything you want a kid to be," Gormley said of Smart. "Polite. Mannerly. A leader. A good student."
On the field, Smart was a defensive cornerstone this season along with junior defensive end Gladimir "The Destroyer" Paul.
Gormley describes Smart as a "gym lunatic" who at 16 has yet to grow into his body. He wears a size-17 shoe and he didn't start playing football until his freshman year.
In June, Smart said, he maxed out on the bench press at 315 pounds and squatted 355 easily. The reward was being named a team captain.
"It feels good to be starting again," he said. "It feels good to be on the field and actually contributing to wins. And I feel like a major part of the team now."
The Vikings fell to Washington, 17-13, in the Public League AAAA semifinals on Saturday. Smart tallied 10 tackles (six solo, one for a loss) despite sometimes facing a double team.
Not bad for a kid who was teased as a freshman when he sat the junior varsity bench and then rode the pine again as a junior.
"All the work I put in and now they elected me captain!" Smart said. "I came a long way from a kid that was benched on JV and that everybody laughed at. Now, those same kids address me as 'Captain.' "
A strong senior year has yet to yield scholarship offers, but when you are out of sight, you don't even get the chance to be in college coaches' minds.
"To get a chance to play in college would mean that even though I was a year behind, I worked really hard and pushed myself to the limits to even get a chance at college," Smart said.
A 3.8 GPA coupled with a strong SAT score might do the trick even if a coach never calls.
His brother, Davidson, 18, was a 5-11, 300-pound offensive/defensive lineman at Jules Mastbaum Tech. He is now a sophomore at California University of Pennsylvania focusing solely on academia.
Their mother, Rabiatu Yilla, 53, from Sierra Leone, can be proud. Both of her sons appear to possess perspective.
"Just making it to college alone," Will Smart said, "that was my objective from the beginning. That's why I focus really hard on my academics. So just making it to college alone would be great whether I play football or not."
In the parking lot after Bonner-Prendergast beat Cardinal O'Hara, 41-38, to advance to the Catholic League AAA title game, a group of Bonner-Prendie mothers requested acknowledgement for the pasta night they provided during the week that certainly ensured victory. Hats off, ladies! They did, however, also sheepishly mention they had attended O'Hara . . . Roman Catholic's Dimetri Kelly (AAAA), Archbishop Wood's Jarrett McClenton (AAA) and Archbishop Carroll's Austin Tilghman (AA) were named Catholic League MVPs for their respective classes . . .
According to Tedsilary.com, Father Judge's Connor Foley (kicker) and O'Hara's Steve Weyler (kicker/punter) are the first in CL major sports to earn first-team coaches' All-Catholic honors in four seasons . . . Abraham Lincoln junior Cody Kettyle (6-4, 320 offensive/defensive lineman) was selected to play in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl Dec. 22 in Dallas . . . Mastery North has given up only 14 points over its current six-game win streak. That stingy defense will be tested once more when it faces King for the AAA title on Saturday . . . If you're playing Imhotep this season, bring an abacus. After a 53-7 win over Prep Charter for the AA title, Imhotep has now scored 462 points in 10 games this season. That's 46.2 per, but that also includes a two-point forfeit win against Del-Val Charter.
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