Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 | 10:46 p.m.
Ryan Smith estimates his father has seen about 10 of his football games dating back to when he first started the sport as a youth player in Pop Warner.
Next fall, that will change.
Smith, who finished his four-year Bishop Gorman High career in early December as Nevada’s all-time leading receiver with 3,208 yards, verbally committed Monday to New Mexico. That’s where his father, DeAndre Smith, is the Lobos’ running back coach.
Smith also had offers from Colorado State and Utah State and took official recruiting trips to both schools. But, when it was all said and done, those universities didn’t have what matter most — his dad.
“It was tough not having him there (during his childhood), but I had to learn to get over it,” Ryan Smith said. “It feels good actually (committing to New Mexico) because he’s only seen a handful of my games.”
DeAndre Smith coached at UNLV during Smith’s freshman season, bringing the family to Southern Nevada and his son to Bishop Gorman. But he was out of a job when coach Mike Sanford was fired at UNLV, landing at the University of Illinois for two years. The coaching carrousel took him to New Mexico last offseason.
With Ryan Smith’s season always conflicting with his dad’s college football season, the closest DeAndre Smith got to the action was updates from his wife and postgame phone conversations with his son.
While it was definitely a strain on the family, staying in Las Vegas so Smith could attend Gorman turned out to be the best decision for his future.
The 5-foot-7, 170-pound Smith didn’t play like someone who was undersized, making an impact on the varsity team since his freshman season and finishing his career with 43 receiving touchdowns. It’s tough to crack the varsity squad at Gorman as a freshman, but then again, Smith was no ordinary freshman.
During the summer before Smith’s freshman year, coach Tony Sanchez had all of the players in the program involved in one drill during a practice. Soon, he instructed all the nonvarsity players — mostly freshmen and sophomores — to head to the other end of the field to meet the lower-level coaches.
Smith didn’t leave the varsity group.
In his mind, you see, he was ready to compete against the best. Four years later, Gorman has won four state championships, cracked the national rankings and compiled a 56-4 overall record.
It’s no coincidence the domination came with Smith starting at wide receiver.
“We knew what they had at Gorman, we couldn’t find that anywhere else,” Smith said.
He’s hoping to have a similar impact at New Mexico.
The Lobos showed some minor improvements last fall under first-year coach Bob Davie, but struggled in the passing game. They only had 43 passing yards in a 35-7 loss to UNLV.
“We’ve got a few good quarterbacks coming in. We’ll be able to run it and pass it (next year),” Smith said.
Verbal commitments are nonbinding and don’t become official until national signing day in early February.
Smith is the fifth player from Gorman to commit, joining quarterback Anu Solomon (Arizona), defensive back Lorenzo Fertitta Jr. (Villanova), defensive back Justin Sweet (Colorado State) and 2014 defensive lineman Isaiah Nacua (BYU).