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September 6, 2003Vernon Smith received the bad news at the start of the summer that the North Lauderdale Academy football program was going to be disbanded because of the school's poor academic standing. Distraught by the news, Smith had little time to sulk over the fact that he would no longer be playing for Harold Pearson and would soon have to pick a new school to continue his career.
Within weeks, Smith transferred over to Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Dillard High School. Smith joins Kenneth Scott's Dillard Panthers and now plays alongside one of the best defensive linemen in the state of Florida in Patrick Sims.
"Coach Pearson is like a father to me. He made me stay on top of everything," Smith remarked about his former coach and confidant.
Smith camped this summer at LSU and Florida. Like all the rest of the athletes that attended the second session of Florida's rising senior camp, Smith has high marks for the camp and the players at the camp.
"A lot of the competition at the senior camp were at my level," Smith said.
Smith has over 30 offers and most of them are from some of the best defensive teams in the nation. Smith has his pick of the litter but named off a top five to InsidetheGators.net. The leader at this point is Oklahoma followed by Miami, Florida, Kansas and LSU.
Although he has no official visits set up at this point, Smith did mention that Oklahoma would definitely be one of his official visits.
"Oklahoma will be one of my official visits and the other four are still up in the air," Smith said. "I am not sure if the list will change when I have to make my decisions."
Although Smith would have loved to stay at North Lauderdale Academy, he has settled down into his new home at Dillard and is ready to make his contributions to help the team reach the state playoffs.
"I am in real good with everybody at Dillard. I know a lot of players out there," Smith said. "I feel that at Dillard we play games that are going to get me ready for the college level. They always have large amounts of crowds out there."
Although Smith may be ready, if a recent jamboree was any indication about the status of the team, Dillard has a lot of work ahead. With Sims and Smith anchoring the defense, Dillard has one of the best units in the entire state. However, in the jamboree against Miami (Fla.) Northwestern, Dillard was crushed 27-0 and Smith and Sims played up until the last few minutes.
"It was disappointing to lose by that much. I mean I am came in thinking that we were going to win and then that happened. It was a wake up call," Smith said.
On Sept. 1, when college coaches can be in contact with high school athletes, Smith already had phone calls from Miami and Kansas by late afternoon.
"The coaches were letting me know that I can come in right away and compete for a starting job. Especially Kansas who says I could probably come in and start right away," Smith said. "I probably want to play in the Big 12 (conference)."
Smith is fully qualified academically to play college football and can now focus all of his attention on picking the right school. With practically all of the top Division I schools after Smith, the hype as one of the best linebackers in the nation can be overwhelming at times.
"I just don't let the hype get to my head. I just go on the field and play like I am suppose to play," Smith added.
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