When redshirt senior wide receiver Jester Weah verbally committed to the Pitt football program, he was better known for his track and field accolades. Weah was one of the fastest players in the state of Wisconsin and earned an opportunity to play football for the Panthers. This year, Pitt will be adding a player taking a slightly different route. Upper Marlboro (MD) Frederick Douglas High School’s Kollin Smith (5-foot-10 inches, 170 pounds) initially accepted a track and field scholarship to Pitt. He’s done so well at the sport, he was named the 2016-17 Gatorade Maryland boy’s track and field player of the year.
Smith’s track and field credentials are quite impressive. He won three individual state championships at the Class 2A state meeting in this past season. Smith captured the 110-meter high hurdles in 14.70 seconds, the 300-meter intermediate hurdles in 39.04 and broke the tape in the long jump with a leap of 23 feet, 5.5 inches. He also took fourth in the long jump at the New Balance Nationals Outdoor with an effort of 24-0.25, which ranked as the nation’s No. 16 performance among prep competitors in 2017 at the time of his selection.
However, Smith was also known for another sport: football. Last season, he gained over 1,200 all-purpose yards and scored 17 touchdowns. A true athlete, he’s played a number of positions including quarterback, running back, wide receiver and defensive back. He runs a 4.4 forty-yard dash. Smith assumed his football career was over until his coach made a call to Pat Narduzzi.
“Well, initially, throughout the track season, I was getting recruited by a lot of Division I schools, because track and field, that’s my bread and butter. But throughout the season, I came across a lot of bumps and bruises in the road and finally, like later on, throughout my track career, Pitt came along and when I took the visit up to Pitt, I loved it. Loved the atmosphere, I loved the campus,” said Smith.
“It gave off amazing vibes and before track season, I was getting recruited by Division I football as well, but I knew the way I was going to get to school was by track because I didn’t go to a lot of camps, like other football athletes did. So, I just had to make things work. And when I committed to Pitt, my football coach from high school is great friends with Coach Narduzzi and he reached out, but he didn’t tell me at first because he wanted to surprise me. So, once he told me that Coach Narduzzi contacted him back and wanted me to contact him, I went ahead and I called him and I told him, “Yeah, I’m on a track scholarship and I want to play.” He said, “We can use you.” So, I contacted my track coach and we talked it out. Track coach said it was okay, so it was a quick turnaround and I leave Sunday (for Pitt). I start practicing on Monday.”
Smith was asked what position he would play at Pitt and he replied, “Honestly, I don’t know right now, because coming out of high school, I was an athlete. I played quarterback, running back, defensive back and kick returner. I played it all, but the ones I want to lock into going into college, either defensive back or slot receiver. Whichever one … I can make whichever one work.”
Smith reiterated that he never had a set position with his team. He was a true weapon that was utilized situationally. “I played everything, honestly,” he said. “There would be plays where they put me at quarterback. When we needed to score, they’d put me at quarterback, I’d make it happen. If we go to spread option, they’ll throw me in the slot, throw me a deep ball. It was just … it depends on the circumstance during the game.”
Smith’s first love has always been track and field, but he was bitten by the football bug early in high school. He always wondered in the back of his mind if D1 football was a possibility. “My sophomore year after we won states and I realized, ‘I’m actually starting to like this football stuff, honestly,’ he said. “At first, to be totally honest, playing football was nothing but fun. I was athletic so I was able to do it and I was always a playmaker, but I was always only doing it because cross country … to be totally honest, that cross country, it wasn’t for me, so I just played football.”
“Once I came across sophomore year, I started getting better, Coach started using me way more, and I just loved the energy from my teammates and I just loved the energy that comes out of me when I’m on the field. Football at that time was bringing out new traits that I didn’t even know about and it just felt good.”
“My arrival time tomorrow should be 8AM Monday morning. I have to take a physical then I’m out on the field, I’m practicing Monday. That’s what they told me anyways. I have played varsity football throughout my entire high school career. I can’t wait to get back into pads.”
Harry G. Psaros can be found on Twitter at @PittGuru