AVON — Mike Elder decided to take a flyer on four freshmen with great athletic ability three years ago. One of them was Ralph Smith.
“Back then we were only 6-4 and we needed him and the others,” said Elder, the coach of the Avon Eagles. “Now they’re seniors. Time does fly.”
Especially when you’re having fun.
Smith has evolved from being an untested ninth-grader to a star wide receiver and cornerback on a team that has a 19-1 regular-season record and an overall record of 23-3 in the last two seasons.
Next year, Smith will play football for Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.
He chose the Cardinals over several colleges, including Akron, the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy.
“The coaches are great,” Smith said. “The team is improving. The coaches showed me how the team is moving in the right direction. Ball State is strong academically in the majors I want, and they have a good recruiting class coming in next year.”
Smith said he wants to major in either communications or criminal justice. For the moment, he does not want to think about college.
“Thank God the recruiting is out of the way,” Smith said. “I can just play football and help the team again.”
Smith helped Avon reach the Division II state championship game last year. He scored the first touchdown of that game, a 42-28 loss to Trotwood-Madison, on an interception return.
Smith had six interceptions and 12 passes defensed in 2011. He also caught 23 passes for 420 yards and six touchdowns.
“We knew a long time ago that he was a special player,” Elder said. “He’s a dynamic athlete, maybe one of the best we’ve ever had.
“I know he enjoyed Ball State and thought it was a good fit,” Elder added. “He had several offers to choose from and make a decision early. He was happy to get this out of the way and concentrate on his senior year.”
Smith (5-foot-9, 170 pounds) was recruited to play cornerback for the Cardinals. BSU competes in the Mid-America Conference.
The Cardinals are coached by Pete Lembo, who guided the team to a 6-6 record in his first year. Daryl Dixon, a former safety for the Indianapolis Colts, is the defensive backs coach.
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.