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January 26, 2009
Smith proves he belongs at ND
Daniel Smith needed one play.
That's all it took for the receiver to convince Clay High School coach Mike Kuntz that Smith could grow into Notre Dame caliber prospect. It came almost three years ago on the first snap of Smith's freshman season.
"We threw a bomb to him," Kuntz said. "First play of his career, a 61-yard touchdown."
While Kuntz was convinced it probably seemed like a Hail Mary to some that this 6-foot-4, 205-pound athlete that played his high school football barely five miles from Notre Dame Stadium could extend his career in town. But when Charlie Weis offered Smith a scholarship on Saturday during junior day that dream became a reality in a hurry.
It also meant Smith could continue a family tradition. Two of his sisters attended Notre Dame, one of which married former Irish safety Gerome Sapp. While Smith admits he was never sure this day would arrive, there was no doubt of his intentions once that offer came.
By the time Smith left campus on Saturday night he'd already told wide receivers coach Rob Ianello of his intentions, which he made public on Monday afternoon at Clay.
"I didn't expect it at all," Smith said. "I was so surprised. I didn't know what to say."
Smith said the Irish project him at receiver or safety. Last season he made 51 catches for 1,061 yards and nine touchdowns. He also made seven interceptions.
Safe to say a year from now when rumors fly about de-commitments in the 2010 class that Smith's name won't be mentioned.
"I'm going to stay at Notre Dame. That's what I've always wanted to do since I was a child," Smith said. "There's no way I'm leaving. That's where I want to be."
And convince others to join. The second commitment in Notre Dame's recruiting class following offensive tackle Christian Lombard, Smith could play a role similar to Braxston Cave last year by providing inside knowledge on the Irish and South Bend. Cave often hosted prospects during their unofficial visits.
"I think it's really important to build a strong class for my senior class to have success," Smith said. "I believe I play an important role to try to bring more recruits in."
There's no doubt Smith already knows a few after junior day and attending every Irish home game last season. That also means he knows better than most the challenge that may await him in Golden Tate, Michael Floyd, Duval Kamara, Deion Walker, John Goodman and Shaquelle Evans.
In other words, playing time won't come easy. No wonder Smith plans to work out Tuesday morning to start preparations for Notre Dame.
"It's going to be hard, that's the first thing that comes to mind," Smith said. "I know there's a lot of talented guys out there. I just want to keep working hard and try to create my spot on the team."
He already did.