Brandon Smith celebrates his commitment with friends and family (Photo: John Harvey/recruit804)
Louisa County LB Brandon Smith choses Penn State
by John Harvey, recruit804
Jack Ham, Tamba Ali, Paul Posluszny and LaVar Arrington are among the top linebackers to ever suit up at Penn State University.
Brandon Smith hopes to add his name to that list in the next four years after he verbally committed to play college football for the Nittany Lions.
The 6-foot-5, 225-pound rising senior middle linebacker announced his decision Monday afternoon during a ceremony of more than 150 family, teammates and friends that packed Alan Jackson auditorium.
The No. 1 high school recruit in Virginia by several scouting services, Smith is happy to call Happy Valley his new home.
“I just got that feeling that this is some place where I really wanted to be, and they just gave me that Southern Hospitality, even though they’re in the North,” Smith said. “
Smith becomes the latest prep standout from Virginia to commit to James Franklin’s team. In 2017, former Benedictine standout Ellis Brooks and Episcopal standout Jonathan Sutherland signed on with the Nittany Lions. In 2018, C.D. Hylton running back Ricky Slade Jr. and North Stafford’s Nana Asiedu committed to Penn State.
The trend has continued this spring as North Stafford speedster Devyn Ford and now Smith.
“I’ve been anxious about it all day long,” Smith said. “I had a whole bunch of family over my house last night and we were just talking about the experience and giving out old stories and it was great to see everybody around. We stayed up all night, telling old stories, it was just wonderful.”
As a high-profile recruit, Smith was wooed by many of the top programs in the country. The Louisa County standout had offers from more than 30 schools, including top tier programs like Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Southern California and Michigan State, among others
Smith said Ohio State and Texas A&M were among the other schools on his final list, but truly fell in love with Penn State.
“My final decision was made about two or three weeks ago when I sat down with my parents and said this is exactly where I want to go and here are the reasons why,” Smith said. “You just feel a sigh of relief, knowing that you made the best decision that you can make in your life. This is the very first decision you made on your own and it’s the most important, because it’s not just going to affect your future, but generations on, it’s going to affect them as well.”
His high school family couldn’t be prouder of his decision.
““He’s hard working, hard-hitting and a dominant player, on and off the football field,” said Louisa County athletic director George Stanley. “Not from Northern Virginia. Not from the 804. Not from the 757, but from right here, in Louisa County, Virginia.”
New Lions coach Will Patrick had nothing but praise for his all-state linebacker.
“As quiet and as humble as he is off the field, between the lines, he plays with immense passion and enthusiasm that I wish every kid in football had,” Patrick said. “He’s pretty reserved off the field, but when he’s on that battlefield on Friday night’s at Louisa, he’s on a whole other level and it’s fun to watch and fun to coach.”
Smith learned a lot during the recruiting process and really found a connection with Penn State defensive coordinator and linebacking coach, Brent Pry.
“He’s an amazing coach and an amazing family man,” Smith said. “I remember one time I was on a visit with him in the car and he called his daughters and said, hey I’m going to be late, but I love you. Basically, he just showed them that he cares, no matter where he’s at and that’s all you can ask for. He doesn’t care where he’s at, if he needs to talk to them, he’s going to talk to them and that’s alright no matter what.”
The relationship with Pry and the University’s history of generating NFL-caliber linebackers was appealing.
“It played in the decision,” Smith said. “Knowing that they are a linebacker-based school and that they structure everything around us. It just gives you the extra advantage to be where you want to be in the next three or four years outside of school.”
He said that commitment to the player is evident throughout the program.
“The way they take care of everybody,” Smith said. “Outside of football, as far as academics and socially and inside of football, if you need extra time to go over plays or you need extra time after practice to go over plays, or just during practice, they’re going to make sure that you understand it to the fullest.”
Smith is excited about the opportunity to play in the Big 10 Conference and play against perennial Power 5 schools like Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State.
“I’m ready for it,” he said. “Just like any other conference you play in, you’ve got to compete either way. Anywhere you go, you want to be the best that’s ever come from there and that’s what I’m going to strive to do. They are getting my full effort, not matter what.”
Smith plans to play football in the fall for Louisa County and believes that he could graduate early to he can enroll in the spring and be ready for spring football. He wants to study criminology with a minor in forensics.
“If I can get it knocked out right away and in as little time as possible, then that’s what I’m going to do,” Smith said. “If I have to go out and extend that time period, then, hey, it’s a business and that’s what I’m going to have to do.”
The rising senior isn’t afraid to put in the work. He gets up at 5 a.m. every morning for workouts and stays up late to make sure he’s prepared for the next day. He serves as a big brother and a mentor to youth’s in the community and has become a role model, on and off the field.
“He embodies that Louisa County spirit,” Patrick said. “He’s what you want in a young man, especially a Louisa County man. This is a proud day. Be very proud.”
– John Harvey
John N. Harvey III is a sports reporter for Recruit804 and can be reached at email@example.com