It was important to the Howland standout to commit early.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
HOWLAND -- Usually, when a big-time high school football player gets recruited, he enjoys it initially, then gets tired of the phone calls, the mail, the decisions and the pressure.
Not Lance Smith.
"I loved it," he said. "It was cool."
Unfortunately for Smith, it's almost over. Sometime in the next few days, the Howland senior running back will make a verbal commitment to the University of Wisconsin.
"Since I was a little kid, it's been my dream to play in the Big Ten," Smith said. "I went down on a visit and I liked it a lot. Tradition-wise and running the ball-wise, Wisconsin was the perfect fit."
Smith, who ran for more than 1,600 yards last season, had offers from most of the top Division I schools in the midwest. Because he wanted to commit early, and because he comes from a single-parent home, he couldn't afford to visit every school showing interest.
"We were lucky in that his mom worked hard and we worked hard to get him to as many places as we could," said Howland coach Dick Angle. "We didn't get him to every place we wanted, but when your choices are schools like Michigan, Pitt, North Carolina and Wisconsin, it's hard to make a bad choice."
In the end, it came down to three schools: Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. He chose Wisconsin even though he knew Badgers coach Barry Alvarez planned to step down after the season. Alvarez, however, will remain the school's athletic director and has already picked his defensive coordinator, Bret Bielema, as his successor.
"Coach Alvarez is still going to be around and I liked the whole coaching staff," Smith said. "That didn't worry me."
Injuries a risk
Smith said it was important to him to commit early.
"If you wait, you're taking a risk on injuries or having a bad season period," he said.
"An early commitment binds the university more than the athlete," Angle said.
"But by the same token, we want to teach these guys values and having your word mean something."
Smith (5-foot-11, 200 pounds) becomes the latest Howland player to earn a Division I scholarship since Angle took over eight years ago.
He joins standouts such as Doug Datish (Ohio State), Tony Davis (Penn State) and Brandon Alexander (Toledo).
"We're proud of our program," Angle said.
"I think the athletes have always been at Howland, they just needed a little direction and little commitment from the coaches."