Landon Smith did not give himself the chance to relax with friends and enjoy the final moments of his senior year of high school.
For him, football meant too much.
Instead of staying for his final semester at Girard High School in Girard, he elected to enroll at Ohio University for Spring Quarter so he could play spring football with the Bobcats. Despite missing the closing moments of high school, Smith said he was not fazed about giving up those memories.
“It didn’t even really hit me,” Smith said. “I just like football too much to let it get to me too much.”
One of the biggest draws of Ohio for Smith was the potential to play right away if he enrolled early. When the Bobcat coaches pitched the idea to Smith during his recruitment, his love for the sport won out over staying in high school for the remainder of spring.
In order to play at Ohio in the spring, he had to load up on classes during the winter and stay after school to complete the requirements to graduate early.
Smith’s enrollment in Athens won’t deter him from missing some of the most coveted moments of a senior’s final year. He’s still going back for prom, and he will attend the official graduation ceremony.
And being away from the friends he’s grown up with for their final months at home has not shaken him either.
“I knew I’d make new friends out here,” Smith said. “That’s how I tried to look at it. Yeah, it was hard, but it’s not nearly as bad as you’d think it’d be.”
After forgoing the end of high school, Smith had to adjust to being one of the new guys on the Peden Stadium field. He, along with fellow freshman Ian Wells, had not spent time with the team last fall and needed to adjust quickly to their new environment.
It could have been expected that Smith might stand like a deer in the headlights of Noah Keller, a 240-pound linebacker that looks like a Mack truck compared to most of the players Smith faced in high school.
“There’s definitely some big boys out here,” Smith said. “It was intimidating at first, but once you take a few hard hits, you get used to it.”
Smith said it took about a week for him to make the full adjustment up to the college level. He had to adapt to the physicality of college cornerbacks, along with the size difference.
When talking about how different the game has been so far, Smith lets out a quick laugh before explaining the biggest changes.
“It’s like night and day,” Smith said. “Everyone’s so much bigger, so much faster, so much stronger. It’s a step up in every way.”
He acclimated himself during the initial practices, but Smith has broken free of his freshman bubble during the past few weeks of practice.
Whether it’s a one-handed catch over the middle of the field or a quick stutter-step to free up space near the sideline, Smith does not fit the mold of a timid freshman attempting to hang with the big boys.
Smith pays attention to wide receivers coach Dwayne Dixon, trying to soak up as much information as possible from the longtime coach, Smith said.
“He expects a lot out of you,” Smith said. “I just try to look at it like he’s got high standards for us, and I can’t let him down.”
Despite rotating in with top receivers and being the leading receiver in the spring game last Saturday, Smith is not satisfied with his development. He cites a variety of ways he can improve.
But from his three catches for 55 yards he pulled in during Saturday’s Green and White scrimmage or the one-handed snag in the middle of the field he made the previous weekend, Smith has gained some pride from his efforts this spring.
His Saturday performance proved to be a culmination of his quick growth. It is also a way for him to show his hometown peers he made the right decision.
“Your friends back at home, they don’t think you can come out here and perform at the (same) level as these college kids can,” Smith said. “Getting to do that, it proves a point.”