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Tuesday, Sep 23, 2014

CCC’s Smith setting lofty goals


Clearwater Central Catholic senior football player Jeff Smith is a rare type of athlete.

The type who is one of the best dual athletes in the county and has the grades (3.0 GPA) to attend Boston College, possibly having the option to play two sports there (football and baseball). He also had the leadership skills to carry the Marauders to the 3A state football championship last year.

Smith initially wasn’t being counted on heavily a season ago.

Coming into last season, senior Blake Gomez had a stronghold on the quarterback position after he led the team to the region championship in 2013, and he was poised for another standout year.

“Blake was our guy. But the talent with Jeff was too evident not to notice,’’ CCC coach John Davis said. “He could run, had an outstanding arm and won games for us. Blake came to me midway through the season and asked to be switched to wide receiver. Jeff started the next eight games and kicked our team into gear.”

Smith has innate natural abilities inherited from his father, Jeff Smith Sr., who played in the Arena Football League.

“We have to change our whole offense this year because of how good Jeff is,” Davis said. “He has a knack of good football sense. His physical abilities at the quarterback position are the best I’ve ever seen. If you’re on defense, you better account for him.”

Despite starting only half the games last year, Smith threw for 1,366 yards and rushed for 611, with 14 total touchdowns.

But Smith wasn’t done surprising people.

In his first season in the starting rotation for the baseball team, he went 6-0 with a 2.59 ERA. He was also second on the team in steals with 15 as the team went to the 3A region semifinals.

The three-star recruit decided last month that he would play at Boston College. He is now clearly focused on achieving major goals this year in the game he’s always loved.

“I’ve been playing football since I can remember with my dad,’’ Smith said. “If it was taken from me, I don’t know what I would do. I finally get to fully start at quarterback, and I’m trying to mold myself into a pocket passer and not just a runner. I watch a lot of Russell Wilson, a short guy like me (both generously listed at 6 foot). We’re going to throw a lot more than last year. We’re more together this year, and we want to get back to Orlando and redeem ourselves.”

Last week in a 43-35 Kickoff Classic victory against Countryside, Smith had 219 yards rushing with three touchdowns. But Smith always deflects the accolades to the team.

“Without my offensive line controlling the line of scrimmage and creating avenues to run, I wouldn’t be successful,” Smith said.

Smith was recruited to play quarterback at B.C., a big reason he chose to go there. He also plans to talk with the Eagles baseball coaches about joining the team.

“My parents are my role models. They work all day to provide for me, and it pushes me to work hard and use my talents, hopefully in the NFL so I can take care of them,” Smith said.

He’s also trying to finish his father’s dream.

“I was on the final cuts list for the 1992 Houston Oilers and had several tryouts with the Bucs a couple years later,’’ Jeff Smith Sr. said. “But I never made it. Jeff was around that and my Arena Football League days, and he wants to make it to the league. He’s always had that bug in him.”

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