Recruiting Rewind: Alabama signee on UGA rumors, visiting cancer patient

Alabama-bound Geno Smith with cancer patient Grace Buckel (Special)

Alabama-bound Geno Smith with cancer patient Grace Buckel (Special)

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.

The tech-savvy coach is trying his best to court UGA's QB of the future (AP)

Nick Saban's No. 1-ranked recruiting class featured eight signees from Georgia, including DB Geno Smith of St. Pius (AP)

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.”



– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog

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105 comments Add your comment

Crimson Crush

May 15th, 2012
4:17 am

While I am proud that this player is a Tide recruit , it is a good thing for all of us that every college program seem to have young men like this . Learning to take the time for others is a powerful lesson that benefits the players lives and the society they live in . A strong antidote from some of the lessons the rest of us learn elsewhere :-)


May 15th, 2012
5:39 am

Geno is a great kid. If you follow him on twitter you know that he is a very grounded, respectful individual. Some of these cocky, self absorbed, egotistical, elite high school athletes could learn a thing or two about how to represent themselves and their famlies from this kid. Roll Tide, Geno.


May 15th, 2012
6:54 am

I read in chattanooga paper that derrick lott transfered to utc.
another one bites the dust.


May 15th, 2012
6:55 am

You guys got a good one here and a class act… St Pius kid who should be a great student also… Hopefully we see ya’ll in the Dome in December…

Lowcountry Bulldawg

May 15th, 2012
7:16 am

Great to read these types of articles. For all of the constant “me first” young men of this generation it is nice to be reminded that we still have Geno Smiths around. Good luck while Bama except for the Saturdays you find yourself against the Dawgs.


May 15th, 2012
7:48 am

It is good to see a headline about a recruit/player doing something positive. It seems that getting arrested is more headline worthy for most media outlets and leads the public to believe that the majority of the good athletes are not good people. I believe the bad ones are the exception.


May 15th, 2012
7:53 am

Hey, Mike….file that one under March 30 headlines….lol….he wanted to go to a school where scooters weren’t so readily available….

UA Grad

May 15th, 2012
8:02 am

Welcome to the Capstone family young man. We are proud to have you!

FL Jacket

May 15th, 2012
8:09 am

Hopefully the Bama fans will appreciate a positive, Saban-neutral article about Alabama football on the AJC at least once!


May 15th, 2012
8:12 am

Very proud to have this young man coming to play for Alabama! I hope every school is getting kids like this!


May 15th, 2012
8:25 am

Really nice to see this young lady smiling after all she’s been through! Great job Geno, sometimes the little things in life, help define a man. Keep the good deeds coming…

Thomas Brown

May 15th, 2012
8:34 am

My purpose in Life is to logon AJ-C blogs, and to contribute to all other UGA blogs as an adversary and mortal enemy of every SEC team who is 1 of the SEC teams who have put UGA into this position after the 2005 season – eight (8) seasons ago now 2012 – of us being the # 6 SEC team in won/lost record. I promise to promote the team as not # 6 in The SEC after 2005. I further desire as my only goal in Life to TEAM-UP with other Bulldogs’ Fans and to declare that we as this VOCAL MINORITY really believe that we ain’t # 6 in The SEC in won/lost record now for 2012 after the 2005 season 8 seasons’ ago.

Further, it is fine for me to say whatever I want. And, it is equally not allowed that anyone should challenge my facts. If they do, I will ignore their facts, and challenge their manhood, and do all in my power to have their opinions removed from all blogs and banned.


May 15th, 2012
8:40 am

Because you win Championships by being “nice” ……. good one!

Wet Willie...keep on smiling

May 15th, 2012
8:43 am

It looks like Mr. and Mrs. Smith got it right with their son. Salute. I Hope Jeno doesn’t get mad when he draws a redshirt this year…just saying.


May 15th, 2012
8:46 am

Bama yall got a great young man in Geno and, of course, he is a great football player. I wish he could have stayed in state but i wish all these young men the best. I wish fans would realize these guys have to go where they feel they will do the best both in the classroom and on the field. I cant stand it when fans criticize these young athletes bc of the university they have chosen. You can only take in so many each yr.

Game Changer

May 15th, 2012
8:49 am

Mark Richt 9 wins vs 30 loses against ranked teams


UGA sports information will be writing a article of support through Chip Towers soon on this subject:

Gorilla Biscuit

May 15th, 2012
8:53 am

Game Changer is the name you post under when you pose as a “UGA alum”.

What name do you post under as a GnaTs fan?


May 15th, 2012
9:00 am

Kudos to Geno Smith for making a positive contribution to society and making that little girls day! I wish Geno nothing but the best in his football career.


May 15th, 2012
9:09 am

Geno Smith is a fine young man to do that for this girl.

We all should remove our school allegiances and congratulate this young man for setting a fine example.

Well done young man


May 15th, 2012
9:11 am

Gawdalmighty Mike, is this the summer series on Nick Saban?

Special K

May 15th, 2012
9:33 am

Sounds like a great kid. Glad to have him.


May 15th, 2012
9:41 am

Mikey still digging and trying to get some bad dirt on Bama. Geno your a great kid !

The Bear

May 15th, 2012
9:43 am

Shows alot of class out of the young man to take time and visit a classmate’s sister in the hospital.

Very nice article MC.


May 15th, 2012
9:48 am

Once upon a time GT recruited very well among the Private Schools like St. Pius & Marist, Woodward, etc.; now under CPJ not so much.

When the “local academic school” (GT) loses the Private School Recruits to the Factories, then you know your Recruiting is very weak.

Thanks for nothing, CPJ!

Thomas Brown

May 15th, 2012
9:53 am

Because this is the state of Georgia newspaper’s blog on Recruiting, and because therefore Alabama signed 8 recruits from this state of Georgia of 4-Stars or better, of which this fine gentleman is but 1 of the 8, while Mark Richt at UGA signed only 5 recruits in this state of Georgia of 4-Stars or better, of which this fine gentleman was offered along with the 8 signed by Alabama by Mark Richt and chose Alabama.

Did you have to take the Lord’s name in vain ?

Dawg Haus

May 15th, 2012
9:59 am

It’s so refreshing to read stories like these. Well done, Geno!


May 15th, 2012
10:04 am

Great story on a great young man! But I’ll bet EVERY school has kids like Geno. we need to hear more stories like this.

Vinning Dawgs

May 15th, 2012
10:12 am

Welcome to Alabama Journal Sport Page. They should move the University of Alabama to Atlanta.


May 15th, 2012
10:13 am

@ Coach – you are right about needing to hear more positive stories that inspire rather than stories that add to the cynicism. Last week my son came home from school and told me that Aaron Murray and the Long brothers were at his school reading to elementery kids. I know that journalists can’t be aware of where these kids are 24-7, but if any of those guys had been behaving badly the news would have been shouted from the rooftops! I guess bad news sells and that is a sad state of affairs. Look at this blog story for example. It’s a great and positive story about a good athlete, Geno Smith. Yet 6 hours after it was posted there are less than 30 replies.

Brown Dog

May 15th, 2012
10:25 am

Bucket, alas, the nature of news. Let’s make it 31.

Geno Smith is a great kid. There are a lot of great kids wearing SEC and ACC jerseys these days or doing their high schools proud. They quietly perform acts of kindness with nary a tweet or a poke.

Here’s to all of them.


May 15th, 2012
10:36 am

Amen, Brown Dog.

Bama Boy

May 15th, 2012
10:37 am

Geno you da Man! RTR THWG!


May 15th, 2012
10:43 am

I’m in good shape with the Big Guy, you don’t need to worry about it, Boweevil.

Wet Willie...keep on smiling

May 15th, 2012
10:49 am

This deal with Alabama signing Georgia players is nothing new since Coach Bryant often signed several each year and some dang gooduns as well. Perhaps he best center of all time (top 5 anyway) was Dwight Stephenson and he was one of Coach Bryant’s favorite players. Pet Cavan,Neil Calloway,Raymond Ogden,Terry Jones,Jim Bob Harris and on and on. Then it was just water cooler chatter and now thanks to Al Gore everybody knows. Auburn makes a living off Georgia recruits and most to stay near the top. The fact GT is having such problems getting topshelf players should make life easy for Richt regardless to the number of players that go to Bama. If UGA ever gets a hardazz task master (as well as a great coach) running that show then the rest of us are in trouble just like what happened at Gatorland when Steve took the job. Stuff happens and something fast. JMO but I believe some things are happening within the UGA admin that just might indicate Richt has to perform this year or he’s out.

92 UGA Grad

May 15th, 2012
10:56 am

I’m as big a Dawg fan as anyone alive and I hate it that Geno chose to go to Bama over UGA, but I’m also the parent of a 9 yr old little girl who is a cancer survivor herself. Anyone who is coming on this particular blog to talk about anything other than what a class act Geno is should really check their priorities in life.

Geno & other athletes like him will never know how much it means to these kids to have their heroes stop by and spend a little time with them. These are kids who are stuck in the hospital having needles poked into them every day and poison pumped into their bodies in the name of making them “better.” My daughter talks all year about the UGA players who stop by Camp Sunshine in the summer to play football with all the “cancer kids” who are attending summer camp there. Geno, you are a fine young man and I hope you have a fantastic career at Bama…

Rowdy_Red Pachyderm

May 15th, 2012
10:56 am

What a great report and topic for a Tuesday morning, I know St. Pius and the the citizens of Georgia are proud of this young man.

We look forward to Mr. Smith’s presence at the Capstone in a few short days from now.



May 15th, 2012
10:58 am

Thanks for the story about Geno. Good one.

[...] 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.” [More] [...]


May 15th, 2012
11:08 am

I can’t say enough good things about this fine young man! What a refreshing change to see someone at his age who “gets it” . . . who understands that it’s not about just him . . . and that his celebrity can be used for good things. Tide Nation you landed a first class young man in Geno Smith. And I don’t mind a bit telling you that I wish he were ours! Good luck to you Geno! I wish you well!


May 15th, 2012
11:24 am

Great jesture but what do local fans care about this in a “recruiting story”. This belongs in the living or general news section.

Best piece to put BAMA on the headlines MC. Get on board with your home team or move to the Tuska Times.

Thomas Brown

May 15th, 2012
11:47 am

Yes, we could have really used him off-the-field for this good press, and we could have used him on the field as the 88th best overall football player in the nation and specifically the # 6 best in the state of Georgia – and, of course at our BIGGEST NEED # 8 in the nation best Defensive Back -

- especially given all the BAD PRESS to our own Defensive Backs
- especially given all the 11 defensive backs run out of our program
-especially given the fact he would be STARTING vs Mizzou as db


May 15th, 2012
11:52 am

get ready for some negative vibes

Wet Willie...keep on smiling

May 15th, 2012
11:54 am

Tdawg…you sir are pitiful. Your envy fits you well and your inferiority complex even better. Just enjoy being a fan of UGA.

Brown Dog

May 15th, 2012
11:56 am

Tdawg, if the other 40 writers on this thread and tried to write the most preposterously cynical and inappropriate post we could come up with, it would not hold a candle to yours.

Congratulations. You have achieved greatness, and you should be ashamed.

gator bait

May 15th, 2012
12:09 pm

This kid is too good for Saban.

Thomas Brown

May 15th, 2012
12:09 pm

The comment by AltamahaDawg May 15th, 2012 9:11 am was equally deplorable, taking the Lord’s name in vain, in addition.

AU Dude

May 15th, 2012
12:27 pm

Did anyone notice that an Auburn player visited someone else first, and the Bama family didn’t want to be outdone so they reached out to Geno?


Geno seems like a class act. Very great thing you did, young man. You can’t help but wish for the best with young men like this. I wish more athletes acted like this.


May 15th, 2012
12:31 pm

Please put a sock in it. Alt. Dawg is a DGD and has a right to his opinion just the same as you. Were you a hall monitor when you were younger? You, young man, are also a lightning rod who upsets others constantly. Altamaha is all-Dawg…


May 15th, 2012
12:35 pm

Tide Fans
As you see by this story, most Doggies are classy posters. Not all, but most are outstanding people…


May 15th, 2012
12:42 pm

It doesn’t have a lot to do with recruiting, but Geno is a famous recruit from Ga. and so M.C. felt it was appropriate. Still waiting on an article on UGAs quest for OLs…