Cannon Smith knew which high schools most college football players in the ACC and SEC graduated from when he looked at college rosters. And he knew the ones that weren’t typically listed — small, private schools like Hammond.
The Skyhawks tight end figured college football at a major conference wouldn’t be in his future because SCISA schools rarely attract college coaches.
But Cannon now knows differently, reciting a list of college players that graduated from schools like Hammond, including Clemson wide receiver Stanton Seckinger, a Porter-Gaud graduate.
A Clemson commitment, Cannon says he looks forward to playing for the school his dad played for while also being the next representative for private-school players.
“It was always my dream school,” Cannon said. “Who wouldn’t want to go to their dream school if offered the opportunity?”
Hammond also became a dream school for Cannon, which is why he’d never consider transferring for an opportunity to play football at a bigger school that likely got more attention. Cannon and his older sister have attended Hammond since kindergarten.
With the accessibility and exposure prospects can get at camps, Hammond coach Erik Kimrey doesn’t think it matters what level of high school football someone plays.
“Colleges are able to evaluate kids even better now,” Kimrey said. “They’re kind of on their own independently of the competition they play.”
Clemson camps were the only ones Cannon attended since he was old enough to participate. His dad, Bill Smith, played on the offensive line at Clemson, and the two would go to home games with some of Bill’s old teammates.
Since coach Dabo Swinney had seen Cannon at the Clemson camps from when he was an assistant coach under Tommy Bowden, he watched the 6-foot-5, 235-pounder progress, often telling Bill that Cannon had the potential to play on Saturdays in the future.
“As the years went on, he proved to them and himself that he could do it,” Bill said.
Swinney gathered players around him at a camp Cannon was at after his sophomore season. The main thing Cannon remembers from Swinney’s speech was him saying that if you’re talented, it doesn’t matter where you play football. Coaches will find you.
“Before I ever heard him say that, I thought I’d probably never have a chance at a school like this because I thought a private school doesn’t really get looked at,” Cannon said. “It really inspired me.”
At the end of that same camp, Cannon was offered a scholarship. He committed just over a month later, and he hasn’t visited any school other than Clemson.
Cannon is a three-star, according to Rivals. He and his Hammond teammates will play host to Porter-Gaud in the first round of the SCISA playoffs on Friday.
When Alabama coach Nick Saban called with a scholarship offer, Cannon was flattered, but didn’t seriously consider going somewhere other than Clemson.
“I can’t really describe it,” Cannon said. “I just feel like I belong there.”