JACKSON County receiver Caleb Smith found himself in select company last weekend and made the most of the opportunity.
Smith, a senior transfer from football powerhouse Sandy Creek, took part in the Football University Top Gun Showcase in Dublin, Ohio, along with 850 other prospects from around the nation.
“Personally, it was really fun going up against the top players in the country because you knew they were going to bring the best out of you,” Smith said.
The 6’0”, 185-pound receiver handled himself well against some of the top recruits nationally. Smith said he went up against the no. 10-rated defensive back in the country “about five or six times” and caught all passes thrown his way.
Then, in 7-on-7 competition, Smith’s team faced a squad featuring high school All-Americans at cornerback and safety.
“We actually beat them in the seven-on-seven,” said Smith, who has also been invited to the Marcus Dixon McInerney High School All-American Bowl Dec. 31 to Jan. 3 in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Smith finished the showcase rated among the top 20 receivers at Top Gun. Over 50 receivers attended the showcase, according to Smith.
Playing against other talented athletes certainly left an impression on Smith.
“Some of the things that I learned was the importance of confidence and just playing with swagger — just have fun when you’re playing and everything else will just take care of itself,” he said.
Athletes at the showcase were also instructed by former NFL stars like Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, and coaches such as Jim McNally (offensive line), Jeff Rutledge (quarterbacks), Ray Buchanan (defensive backs) and Charlie Collins (wide receiver).
“It was just a fun experience to learn and become better,” Smith said.
Now Smith — who said he didn’t accumulate a lot of stats last year at Sandy Creek —looks forward to his senior season at Jackson County, particularly playing in coach Benji Harrison’s offense.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “The offense is great, running the no-huddle. It’s very fun. It’s explosive, and also with Jacob Lewis at quarterback, he’s a great talent.”
He’s also excited about the other side of the ball as well as the Panthers seek their third consecutive trip to the state playoffs.
“Our defense is looking very, very good this year as well,” Smith said.
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