MINERAL — Brandon Smith’s final day of high school is Thursday. The Louisa County High linebacker plans to graduate early to get a head start on his dream of playing college football.
Smith made his final call as a varsity player Wednesday by officially signing with Penn State on National Signing Day.
The No. 14-ranked recruit in the Class of 2019 by 247Sports.com, Smith verbally committed to play for Coach James Franklin and the Nittany Lions several months ago, but he finalized the decision Wednesday afternoon in front of family, friends and coaches.
“I’m very excited to start the next chapter of the book in my life,” Smith said. “Spending these last few moments in the high school really means a lot.”
Smith has been a defensive staple for the Lions for the past three years. He posted more than 100 tackles in each of the past two seasons and was named Virginia’s Gatorade Player of the Year earlier this month.
As a senior, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound linebacker led Louisa County to another Jefferson District title. He posted a team-high 135 tackles, including 60 solo stops to earn Jefferson District Defensive Player of the Year honors. Smith also forced nine fumbles, posted 14 quarterback pressures and added five sacks as the Lions reached the Class 4B regional semifinals.
“Words can’t express how much I’m going to miss this young man, but I know one thing, he’s going to make everyone in this community proud, his family proud and his teammates proud,” Louisa County football coach Will Patrick said. “This is his moment. I know he’s been preparing for this for a long time and I couldn’t be more proud as a high school football coach. Going from one lion, a Louisa lion to a Penn State Nittany Lion, thank you to Brandon, to his parents and I’m looking forward to watching him take his talent to the next level.”
Donning a Penn State bow-tie, Smith was all smiles when he signed the dotted line to make his decision official.
“I barely slept last night, but I was full of excitement and joy,” Smith said. “I’m just thankful for the opportunities I was given my sophomore year. I’m just grateful for all my coaches and Coach Franklin and [Penn State defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent] Pry and the rest of their staff for being the best option possible.”
Smith had offers from more than 25 Division I programs, including perennial powerhouses such as Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Notre Dame. The senior chose Happy Valley because of his relationship with Franklin and Pry and the opportunity to make an impact on a program that has a steep tradition at the linebacker position.
“I’m just ready to start and put my name in the place with all the greats,” Smith said.
Smith will be leaving a strong support system in Louisa that helped mold him, something that Franklin took notice of.
“He’s got an unbelievable support system,” Franklin told reporters on Wednesday. “You talk about being raised by a village, that’s Brandon.”
Smith will spend the Christmas holiday with his family and friends before traveling to Orlando to participate in the Under Armour High School All-American Game.
After the game, he will return home and then hit the road for Penn State to enroll for the spring semester. Smith’s course load in college will include 15 credits. In addition, he will be involved in offseason workouts and participate in spring practices with the Nittany Lions.
“It’s going to be exciting and tiring all at the same time,” Smith said. “I just want to start and hit the ground running. I think my work ethic is strong and I’m just really just going to give them everything I’ve got.”
John Harvey covers Central Virginia high school sports for The Daily Progress and CVille Varsity. He can be reached at email@example.com or (434) 978-7250. Follow him on Twitter at @