It was last Friday when Central-Phenix City High football player Orwin Smith surprised his mother.
“He just came up to me,” Monica Smith recalled, “and thanked me. He said the reason he and his brothers aren’t bad kids is that I’ve always kept them busy. He said I didn’t give them time to get into trouble.”
Sports practice, some of it organized, some of it on his own, has accounted for much of Orwin Smith’s time and it has paid off big for the 17-year-old running back.
Wednesday morning at Central, Smith, dressed from top to bottom in blue and gold, signed a football grant-in-aid with Georgia Tech of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“I’m just thrilled,“ said his mother, a mental health technician at the Bradley Center in Columbus. “He earned this.”
Her son, who began his high school career as a wide receiver, rushed for 1,252 yards this past season. His 18 touchdowns tied the school record held by James Joseph, who played five years in the National Football League after starring at Auburn University.
It was Auburn that first offered a scholarship. That was before his junior year. However, Smith decided on Georgia Tech early in the process, Tech offered him last Feb. 27, Smith’s birthday. He said coach Paul Johnson’s system was everything a running back could ask for. “You just can’t beat it.”
Central coach Ron Nelson calls the 6-foot, 200-pound Smith “one of the best backs to ever play here and we’ve had great ones.”
Smith said the key to his success is “drive.”
“I just give everything I’ve got all the time. I’m going hard all four quarters.”
“He’s got a gift for sure,” said Nelson, “His work habit really makes his special.”
Smith, expecting to play early at Tech, said he has gotten great support from his grandmother Susie Atkins and stepfather Raymond Singleton.
The young man is eager to leave Phenix City for bigger Atlanta. “It’s going to be exciting. It doesn’t scare me. I know right from wrong. During recruiting my mother told me to go where I’ll be happy and Georgia Tech is that place.”