LOS ANGELES — Oh, the locations Roquan Smith wished to go.
On a heat winter day in Southern California, the perfect defensive participant within the nation vividly recalled what it was prefer to be an elementary college pupil in rural Georgia, flipping by way of his social research e-book to stare on the endlessly fascinating maps.
Dwelling in Marshallville, a city with no visitors lights, Smith memorized the cities and states and nations he wished to go to, and puzzled what he was lacking.
“I used to at all times pull it out and have a look at locations on the map and be like, ‘I need to go there, I need to go there,’ and I began studying the map,” Smith mentioned. “[To find] Marshallville, you’ll need to zoom in a complete lot extra. I suppose that’s simply part of it, [being a] small-town boy.”
After starting his lifelong pursuit with journeys to Central America and South America, and all throughout the U.S., Smith lastly arrives to face Oklahoma on Monday within the Faculty Soccer Playoff semifinal on the Rose Bowl — the place the Bulldogs linebacker as soon as thought he would play all of his house video games.
It was just below three years in the past that Smith appeared on nationwide TV, saying he would play at UCLA. However earlier than he signed a letter of intent, Smith discovered that the Bruins assistant who recruited him, Jeff Ulbrich, was taking a job with the Atlanta Falcons, and determined to go to high school again in his house state.
“I attempt to not play the ‘what if’ recreation,” Smith mentioned. “What if I signed that? What if I used to be in L.A.? I can’t actually say. I don’t understand how my life would have turned out.
“As I give it some thought now, the years I’ve had at Georgia, I can’t actually envision myself anyplace else.”
It’s straightforward for everybody else.
Simply envision Georgia not having an opportunity to win its first nationwide championship since 1980. Go forward and erase the Bulldogs’ first SEC title in 12 years.
Smith, the Butkus Award winner because the nation’s high linebacker, recorded 113 tackles this season, with 10.5 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks, whereas headlining a protection which allowed the third-fewest factors in nation.
“Roquan is exclusive to me,” Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker mentioned. “I’ve seen quite a lot of linebackers over time which can be actually good gamers. Spending 10 years within the NFL, you see all sorts of guys.
“He has the distinctive mixture of velocity, soccer IQ, and bodily play, and he loves the sport. I feel what makes him actually particular is that he’s very, very coachable and he’s an amazing teammate.”
On movie, the small-town child monopolizes the highlight, acknowledged because the defender most able to creating havoc for Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, and a Sooners offense which averages practically 45 factors per recreation.
“Their protection clearly is absolutely good, however undoubtedly [No.] three is a hell of a participant,” Oklahoma fullback Dimitri Flowers mentioned. “He’s a uncommon mixture of velocity and physicality. That’s not one thing you see quite a bit.”
It’s why Smith might be a primary spherical choose within the NFL, and probably a high 10 choice this spring, although the junior hasn’t determined whether or not he’ll depart college after this season.
Oklahoma is sufficient to fulfill his curiosity for now.
“I haven’t performed an offense like this with the weapons they’ve and whatnot,” Smith mentioned. “It’ll be a little bit completely different, one thing we haven’t seen all yr, and I’m positive it’s one thing they haven’t seen, as nicely.
“We all know it’ll be a grind, however we’re trying ahead to it. We wouldn’t [want] it to be another approach.”
Oh, the locations he nonetheless could go.