With stage lights shining and an ESPNU commentator in his ear, Olathe South High School offensive lineman Braden Smith pulled on an Auburn University cap and announced his much-anticipated college decision on Wednesday.
According to ESPN, Smith is a four-star recruit and the top prospect in Kansas. He was one of 13 players who made their announcement during ESPNU’s Signing Day coverage. Smith collected a number of postseason football honors, All-Sunflower League and all-state selections, and an Under Armour All-American nomination.
“This is something everyone dreams about,” Smith said. “Finding a home now is great.”
Smith received more than two dozen Football Bowl Subdivision offers before whittling his list down to Texas A, Texas Christian and Auburn. Prior to the ceremony, only Smith and his parents knew which school he had decided to attend.
Smith pointed to the football environment, the similarities between the offenses at Olathe South and Auburn, and the fact that Auburn’s starting left tackle Greg Robinson declared for the NFL Draft in January as factors that drew him to the Tigers.
“It was a very difficult decision because those are three great schools,” Smith said. “It was a close race between all three of them, but I felt like Auburn was the best fit for me.”
Olathe South football coach Jeff Gourley called Smith a once-in-a-lifetime kind of player and said that after seeing tape of other prospects, he would easily rank Smith as the top offensive lineman in the country.
“What separates him is the size,” Gourley said. “He is 6-foot-6 and almost 300 pounds, but he can squat down and touch his bottom to the ground. He’s so flexible and he’s an athlete, not just a big old chunky lineman.”