Rockingham rising junior Colby Smith (No. 55) puts the pressure on during drills in Wentworth last Thursday morning. Over the course of the last two seasons, Smith has received 10 Division 1 offers to play college football.

WENTWORTH — Anytime a loved one is lost, it’s always tough. But at the tender age of 13, Rockingham rising junior football player Colby Smith had to come to terms with the tragic death of his father Michael a little more than two weeks before Christmas in December of 2016.

Smith, now 16, and his father were very close, and prior to his passing, they often talked about the future and their shared dream of Colby one day getting the chance to play college and professional football.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen in his father’s lifetime, but their shared dream has not been derailed. In fact, it’s not only on track, but rolling full-steam ahead as the father and sons ambition remains, and it appears clear dad is smiling down. At least that’s the way Colby see’s it.

The big guy with the giant heart to match is hard to miss. Listed at 6-7 and 290 pounds, Smith is a three-star prospect ranked No. 43 in the country as a member of the class of 2021. In addition, as a blind side offensive tackle, he’s ranked No. 28 in the state of North Carolina according to 247Sports.

“After my dad passed a few years back, it was really tough because this was always our dream. I was really down at that point and asking God questions of why this happened, but I came to realize that there is a plan for everyone. Everything happens for a reason I believe. The more sacrifices, the better the reward you will receive in my opinion . . . time heals better than anything. Everybody told me that I would get this opportunity, and now that it is actually happening, it’s like surreal. It’s crazy. I’m just very, very blessed,” Smith said.

Cougars head coach Brad Baker said Wentworth has become a popular destination spot for college recruiters in recent months because of his gridiron prodigy.

Smith’s growing reputation has attracted 23 different colleges to date from Division I, Power 5 schools as well as some DII and DIII programs to check him out over the summer.

Only one thing is certain if everything continues to unfold on its current trajectory, Smith is going to have his choice of some of the

best universities in the country when he does make the decision on where to take his game.

N.C. State, Duke, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois, Wisconsin and Louisville are some of the more prominent schools that have already made offers, and Smith said it’s going to be a tough decision when the time comes because they all have great facilities, coaches and national reputations in addition to being good schools.

“Wentworth is not an easy place to get to. You’ve got to want to come here you know? Obviously, at almost 6-8 and 290 pounds, he runs very, very well for a kid that size. I know he’s ranked as one of the top offensive linemen in the country and that kind of tells you the type of player he is, but he’s an even better person. He very humble and takes the recruiting and attention in stride. He’s a team first guy. You wouldn’t know walking around that he has all of the offers. He’s just one of the guys. When we go on offense or defense and scout, instead of sitting back and taking a rest, he’s the first guy in trying to make somebody better. He’s just an awesome kid. He’s got a great GPA and positive attitude and he’s the type of kid you cheer for to be successful,” Baker said.

For now, Smith is just looking forward to his junior season for the Cougars and doing everything he can to become a better player.

“Of course I want to get stronger and for it to be all muscle weight, because some of the other guys at the next level, they have more size behind them, but my advantage of course is speed. If I can pack on quality pounds and maintain my speed, I think I can really do something with that. I’m really trying to do all I can to play at the next level and I believe this is my calling. I believe I was put on this earth to play football man. This has always been mine and my dad’s dream and it pushes me a lot more just trying to make the dream come true,” Smith said.

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Contact Jim Sands at 336-314-1058 or on Twitter @jimsandsRCN.

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