One of Alabama’s star football recruits stopped by an Atlanta hospital to visit a girl who was recently diagnosed with bone cancer.
Geno Smith is a senior at St. Pius, ranked as the No. 8 defensive back in the country by Rivals, and signed with Alabama over Auburn last February.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Smith was approached last week about going to see the younger sister of one of his classmates, Grace Buckel. The 12-year-old girl was diagnosed with cancer in her leg last month and was hospitalized at Scottish Rite (Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta).
An Auburn player recently visited a patient down the hall. Grace is an Alabama fan and her parents thought a visit by Geno might cheer her up. Smith and his St. Pius teammate, Nick Maiolo, made the special trip last Friday.
“I was happy to do it,” Smith told the AJC. “We just hung out and talked a little football.”
“It was very nice of Geno,” said Grace’s mother, Cindy Buckel. “He’s kind of a quiet guy, very unassuming. Grace was very surprised when he walked in. She enjoyed having him in the room. They took pictures, and they just talked.
“Even the doctor that came in to check on her during that time knew who Geno was, and asked for his autograph, which I thought was kind of funny. She enjoyed the time he was there. It made the time go by faster.”
Smith, an AJC Super 11 selection, will report to Alabama on May 27. Smith was one of eight top Georgia prospects to sign with Alabama’s No. 1-ranked recruiting class in February.
Smith reflected on the recruiting process.
What NCAA rule would you change about recruiting? “Probably the rule that doesn’t allow the head coaches to come out to spring practices anymore. We have our spring practices at St. Pius during January, so coach [Nick Saban] was able to come by the school during that contact period. But he wasn’t able to come by my school [during the spring evaluation period]. That’s one thing I wish I would change.”
What was the biggest rumor about you that was not true? “The summer before my senior year, I had a top five without UGA in it. But people thought Georgia was really in there and at the No. 1 spot … and that I was a silent commit to Georgia and I was going to go public on signing day.”
What was your biggest recruiting secret? “I didn’t really have any secrets. Well, I guess I had one – I really liked Tennessee. All my junior year, I would come home and play ‘Rocky Top’ on YouTube and then hit repeat.”
What was your biggest recruiting regret? “Well, when I committed, I wanted to commit early so I could enjoy my senior year. I knew where I wanted to go to school, so I didn’t want to wait. But I wish I could’ve taken some official visits, you know, go check out some places kind of far away, like California. But when I committed, I didn’t feel like it was the right thing to do for me take any more official visits. I don’t regret it. But it was one of those things I wish I could’ve done. Then again, it worked out because when I committed early, I was able to recruit other guys to come to Alabama, too.”
Which school disappointed you the most during the recruiting process? “Tennessee, because I liked Tennessee a lot. A coaching change happened with whomever recruited my area during my junior year. I didn’t know who was recruiting me until later that spring. By that time, I was like ‘OK, we’re going to shift it to Alabama and Auburn.’”
Which non-Alabama coach was nicest? “Coach [Mark] Richt at Georgia, for sure. Most definitely. He’s a great guy, a family guy that is good to be around … good conversation.” Not the nicest? “None of them are mean. I don’t think coaches are mean during recruiting. I’ve never gotten a negative vibe from a college coach.”
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– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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