By putting pen to paper Wednesday at Barks Hall on the Hammond School campus, Cannon Smith moved close to fulfilling an ambition — playing football for the Clemson Tigers.
Smith, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound tight end, can’t wait to head to the Upstate.
“It’s been a dream of mine for a long time to someday touch that rock and run down that hill and play before 81,000 fans,” he said. “I’m sure it will be an overwhelming experience.”
The only hang-up in the recruiting process was the fact that many of the Hammond coaches, including head coach Erik Kimrey, are former South Carolina players.
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“The coaches from Carolina liked to give me a hard time, but that was all in fun,” he said. “I know all of the coaches are behind my decision 100 percent, especially coach Kimrey.”
Kimrey knew early that he had a special player in Smith’s early days in the Hammond program.
“He is very athletic for a kid his size, and he created tremendous match-up problems for teams at our level,” Kimrey said. “He was probably the fastest kid on our team this season and probably has the best hands, as well. He can run routes, he can catch and he can block.”
Kimrey said the Clemson coaching staff can best determine how to utilize Smith.
“Cannon’s best with one hand on the ground in a traditional tight end role,” Kimrey said. “But Clemson is getting a kid who has diverse talents and regardless of how they use him, I’m sure they will be able to fit him well into their scheme.”
Smith is the first Hammond player to sign out of high school with either Clemson or South Carolina.
“It’s exciting for our program to have a guy recruited to play at one of the state’s two major universities,” Kimrey said. “And given the level of success in recent years around here, it’s an exciting time for a player to get a shot at playing at Clemson or South Carolina. I’m sure he’s going to have a good four or five years at Clemson.”
Smith said being a trailblazer was not something he dwelled upon.
“I’m honored, of course, but to tell you the truth I really didn’t think about it too much,” he said.
“Right now, my only thoughts are about what I need to do to prepare myself to play at the next level, which is quite a bit different than what I’ve been used to.”