University of Miami

This Hurricanes commit grew up with pro wrestling dreams and tunnel vision to Miami

Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatoryfootball players talk new season

Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory receiver john dunmore and receiver Keontra smith share their expectations for the new football season.
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Chaminade-Madonna College Preparatory receiver john dunmore and receiver Keontra smith share their expectations for the new football season.

Keontra Smith waited a long time for the Miami Hurricnaes to finally offer him. The defensive back grew up in Fort Lauderdale, rooting hard for Miami. For his first few years at Chaminade-Madonna, Smith waited patiently for his hometown team to finally offer.

The Hurricanes finally came through in February, when Smith was already committed to the Kentucky Wildcats, and Smith finally flipped his commitment to Miami in May.

The senior now one of five Lions committed to the Hurricanes — along with four-star cornerback Te’Cory Couth and three-star defensive end Cameron Williams, plus junior defensive tackle Willie Moise and sophomore running back Thad Franklin — and one of the firmest commitments in the Class of 2019.

A four-star safety in the composite rankings, Smith will sign his National Letter of Intent in December and enroll in the summer, and he has no reservations even with Miami’s four-game losing streak. In a question-and-answer session earlier this week, Smith explained why signing with the Hurricanes will be so meaningful and what got him to this point.

Miami Herald: Playoffs are right around the corner. How do you feel about your season to this point?

Smith: “I feel really great. It’s been going the way I expected to go. It’s actually going a little better than I expected.”

MH: What’s made it better than you expected?

KS: “My team’s playing hella good. We’re finna make a state run and hopefully win it all.”

MH: Are you surprised how smooth things have been after you lost a lot of players from last season?

KS: “I’m surprised. I thought we we would have a little more setbacks. It’s going smooth. I love the guys we have now. They all work hard, same work ethic as the guys that left. I feel like we’ve got the guys to win it all again next year.”

MH: What about your individual performance?

KS: “I feel like I’m playing very good. I’m in my prime. This is my senior year of high school. I’m supposed to play like this and I don’t expect anything less than how I’m playing. Also, I’ve just been working on leadership skills.”

MH: Did you feel like you were a leader last year, too? Or did you defer to the seniors a little bit?

KS: “I feel like I was a leader on the team last year, but me being a senior it’s like most of it’s on me.”

MH: The signing period is getting close. How are you feeling with it coming up?

KS: “This is a dream come true. It don’t even feel real, if you get what I’m saying. It feels like I’m living a dream.”

MH: You guys have a bunch of Miami commits on the team. What’s it been like to play with all these guys?

KS: “I met TC before high school football and I met Cam when he came over to Chaminade, and ever since I met the both of them, we just built like a tight bond. It’s a very cool relationship and knowing that we’re going to college to play football with them — I can’t even explain it. I’m happy to get another chance to play with these guys.”

MH: Some people have clearly been discouraged by the losing streak. What have you thought about this season?

KS: “I feel really good about it. We have a very elite defense and getting a chance to showcase my talent on that defense and get a chance to play as a true freshman, I just can’t wait. I can’t wait to get that and when I get that chance I will not mess up. I’ll make every rep count.”

MH: What originally brought you to football?

KS: “My first word was ball, so just me being that kid who loved sports. I actually wanted to wrestle. That may seem kind of weird because I started playing when I was 4, as I told you, but I didn’t play any skill positions. I always played like on the line, so it wasn’t really fun for me at first, but I guess that’s where I get my dog. Football was just — when I played it was like the only thing I’ve been totally dominant in. It was the one thing I could always do and be OK doing it. It’s my escape.”

MH: When you say you wanted to wrestle, do you just mean like roughhousing or something more serious?

KS: “I ended up doing boxing as a kid for like a year, but football always stuck with me.”

MH: So were you thinking wrestling like on a mat or WWE?

KS: “At that young age, I didn’t know the difference. At that young age, I wanted to do the wrestling that was on the TV and all that stuff.”

MH: Did you have a favorite wrestler?

KS: “Oh yeah, John Cena. You know that’s my favorite. ‘You can’t see me.’”

MH: You said football is your escape. What are some challenges you’re proud to have overcome?

KS: “It’s just escaping the ‘hood. Growing up in that environment, seeing a lot of bad things, you’ve got to choose your own route. You can’t do what everybody else does, you feel me? I felt like I kept my head on the straight road and I was tunnel vision.”

MH: You and all the Miami commits have been wearing “U” decals on your helmets. Whose idea was that?

KS: “It was actually my coach’s idea. When me and TC was committed, he came out there and he had two Miami stickers, and I’m like, ‘Oh, coach, I need that.’ So I got it and I put it on my helmet. TC was like, ‘Oh, where’d you get that from?’ I’m like, ‘Oh, Coach got one for you. Go get it,’ so he got it and then Cam was like, ‘Oh, where’s mine?’

“You know the ibis? He had that last one for Cam. He didn’t have the U, so Cam was like, ‘Oh, I need that,’ and then when we first started getting the stickers, Thad came along, so Coach went and got Thad one. It was Coach’s idea. [John Dunmore’s] got a Penn State one. James [Williams] has got a Wisconsin one.”

MH: You got No. 1 this year. What’s the reasoning behind it?

KS: “The reason was to be a leader. At Chaminade, you’ve got to be a dog to wear No. 1. It’s always been like that before I’d gotten it. Coach Jones, ever since he’d gotten there. At first, I wasn’t going to wear No. 1. I wasn’t about to wear No. 1. It was [Xavier Williams’] number, but I deserved it and Coach knew I deserved it, and that’s the reason I got No. 1 because Coach felt like he had to do that for me because I worked hard for it.”

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