First off, there is that name. We all just got used to writing DeVonta Smith with a capital “V” to identify the Alabama All-SEC wide receiver. If his Twitter account is any indication, the 2021 defensive back spells it Devonta with a small “v”.
Smith has had a pretty wild recruitment. He only started getting offers about a year ago. Some nearby schools like Kentucky, Louisville, and Vandy liked what they saw and made offers. In November, things started blowing up for the Ohio native with offers from Penn State, Oklahoma, Oregon, West Virginia, all within a few days. Things cranked up again in early 2020 when offers came from Alabama, Oregon, and one from home-state Ohio State who offered him during an unofficial visit.
He accepted the anOSU offer soon after but something soured over the coming months and Nick Saban kept on recruiting Smith.
Getting family involved in decision-making is always a good strategy for a football coach. Sometimes, it is mom. Sometimes, it’s dad, or a brother, or an Uncle Godfather. This time, it was a cousin and WHAT a cousin! Smith is cousins with none other than the great Shaun Alexander. Saban knew of this connection and reached out to #37 to make a sales pitch to his kin.
“He let it be known that he needed me, that he wanted me and that I’d be a great asset to the Alabama football program,” Smith said of Saban’s message to Alexander. “That really stuck with me because Nick Saban is one of my idols. I feel like he’s the best coach to ever do it and everything. If Coach Saban says that, it’s like crazy. It really opened my eyes and my heart, and I just got this gut feeling.”
If you are not familiar, Alexander’s hometown of Florence, Kentucky is about the same distance to Cincy as the Moon Winx Lodge is to Nick’s In The Sticks.
Bama world welcome my cousin to A.L.A.B.A.M.A. #RollTide #WhereLegendsAreMade @AlabamaFTBL @UofAlabama pic.twitter.com/heiqIav3IY— Shaun Alexander (@shaunalexander) June 30, 2020
Another Alabama connection is Derek Kief who also attended La Salle. The two have been friends and have trained together in Cincinnati. Smith says the former Tide receiver encouraged him to consider Alabama because “that’s where people who are different go to be great.” Kief is now a Graduate Assistant at the University of Maryland.
Fellow 2021 Alabama commit Agiye Hall reached out to Smith by phone to encourage him to join the class.
We as Bama are snobs, aren’t we? If Alabama gets a 3-star, we wonder what in the heck Saban is doing?!!! But something tells me Smith will not stay a 3-star too long.
Many crootin “experts” took a cautious approach with their evaluation with the defensive back because of uncertainties that they thought might be answered at now-canceled summer camps. He is listed as 6’0/185, but some crootniks would rather see the tape measure for themselves. Smith definitely has skills and good instincts but some have questions as to his durability, speed and fluidity as well as whether he projects as a corner, nickel, free safety or a strong safety. These are not doubts, just unknowns. [Alabama sees him as a cornerback.]
- 247sport composite - 3-stars, #400 national ranking, #30 at the CB position.
- 247sports - 4-stars, no national ranking (247 only goes up to 247 recruits), #23 at CB.
- Rivals - 3-stars, no national ranking (Rivals only goes up to 250), #32 at CB.
- ESPN - 3-stars, no national ranking (ESPN only goes up to 300), #38 at CB.
Smith was named team captain last year as a junior and played both ways CB/WR for LaSalle. On defense, he posted 38 tackles, three interceptions, and a fumble recovery. On offense, he had 11 catches for 271 yards and five touchdowns. Lining up primarily at safety, Smith helped lead the Lancers to their fourth state title in six seasons (2014, 2015, 2016, 2019). They should be in the running for another championship if their season is played.
Smith has the ability to play all five positions across the secondary. He is teammates with 4-star 2022 running back Gi’Bran Payne who holds an early Alabama offer. Other teammates include 2021 3-star LB and Buckeyes commit Jaylen Johnson who is also a cousin, and 2021 3-star DB Iesa Jarmon who has pledged to play for the Cincinnati Bearcats.
It has not been an easy childhood for Smith. Tragically at the tender age of nine years old, he witnessed his father being shot and killed. While the experience was traumatizing, he has chosen to take a path of making things better and leading by example to hopefully change the violence in his community.
“All they see here are gun violence, killings, and blood spilling,” Smith told a local TV reporter. “I want to show them it’s so much more. If football isn’t your way out, then just getting to college and seeing better places and better things and creating better opportunities for you and your family. I just want them to know that.”
Although a middle child, he became the “man of the house” among his six siblings at a young age. It is inspiring to see such maturity and leadership from a 17-year old young man who has been through so much, but sees a better world ahead.