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Gators' Smith aims to join Golden Knights
The former Land O'Lakes player has a tryout in August to become a walk-on at UCF.
By CHRIS WAGENHEIM
Published June 27, 2007
Johnny Walters' speed camp was brimming with athletes of all ages and all sports, but one athlete in particular wanted a little extra boost before the biggest tryout of his life.
On Aug. 20, former Land O'Lakes football player and track athlete Lee Smith will strut his stuff in front of George O'Leary and the rest of the University of Central Florida coaching staff to attempt to join the football team as a walk-on.
"I am just trying to stay in shape and get faster, " Smith said. "I have been coming to Johnny's (camp) for four years now, and he has cut my (40-yard) time by at least four-tenths of a second."
Smith said his former linebackers coach, Tom Carter, has been in contact with UCF's coaching staff, and both are confident he will get a spot on the team.
"As hard as he works and as intelligent as he is, it would not surprise me if he made the team, " Land O'Lakes coach John Benedetto said.
Smith doesn't need a scholarship to get a full ride to school, as he is an International Baccalaureate student who already has one from the Florida Bright Futures program. He intends to study nuclear engineering, chemical engineering or biomedical engineering.
"I am going to play football, but I am also going for the academics, " Smith said. "You've got to have a good academic future, because football isn't going to last forever, despite your best efforts."
Benedetto said he recognizes Smith's balance between school and sports.
"Lee Smith is pretty much the embodiment of the student athlete, " he said. "He is a kid that balanced his academics with athletics and participated in two sports the past three years. He is a coach's dream."
Coming from an academic family, Smith was meant for the books. But the discovery of his football talents was nothing to look past.
"Both of my parents are engineers, so they have always made me love math and school and stuff, " Smith said. "Then I started playing football when I was 8 and fell in love with it."
Since school starts the same day as his tryout, Smith will have his hands full. But Benedetto is confident Smith won't have any trouble handling both aspects of life at college.
"With the amount of work and homework he had on a nightly basis, he did such a great job being able to do that and also come out and practice football, " Benedetto said. "He is a kid that has got his head screwed on properly."
Former Land O'Lakes quarterback Joe Weatherford has signed with UCF, and Benedetto thinks it also will help Smith land a spot on the team.
"Because of the fact that we signed Weatherford over there, I would think that yes, they are interested in Smith and will give any one of our kids that we recommend to them a good opportunity to make the team, " Benedetto said.