Bolingbrook, Ill., tailback Erik Smith (5-11, 190) was primarily the back-up in 2006 to Louisville…
"The Brook" Unveils Next Tailback
"When I first got here (Bolingbrook) you walk the halls and see all the great running backs up on the wall and (Bolingbrook) coach (John) Ivlow would sit me down and show me film of all the great backs from the past.
"I consider it an honor to be the tailback at Bolingbrook high school. I've been watching and learning from Dale (Martin) for a long time and now I'm ready to go. I've got some big shoes to fill and I'm looking forward to keeping the tradition of great running backs alive and well."
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Smith, is the ultimate sleeper prospect. Erik could've run for 2,000 yards last season but nobody would've noticed with Dale Martin being in the same backfield.
In Illinois high school football lore, Dale Martin was known as "The Matrix" because of his ability to make amazing, eye-popping plays. Martin was a huge draw every Friday night and there was simply an uncontrollable buzz every time #1 stepped onto the field. Now Erik Smith must step out of the shadows and into the limelight.
Erik Smith taking over for Dale Martin as running back at Bolingbrook is the pro version of Steve Young taking over for Joe Montana as the 49ers starting quarterback. Smith has a lot of unproven talent and he might have run for only 300 yards last year but that didn't stop head coach John Ivlow from putting together an impressive highlight tape.
"Erik (Smith) was the hardest worker we had on the team but he was stuck behind Dale (Martin).It's that simple" Coach Ivlow said.
"Every coach that came through our school this past month was asking where he (Smith) came from. Erik is strong, he's got great hands and he's always going at 100%. He's got a motor that doesn't stop.
"Erik makes things happen when he's on the field and he scored a 24 on his ACT taking honors classes in school." Ivlow added.
Smith now holds seven scholarship offers including his biggest and most recent offer.
"Wisconsin definitely surprised me when they offered me," said Smith. "I had been talking to coach (Randall) McCray for awhile and he told me he liked my highlight tape and that he would pass it along to the head coach.
"Coach McCrae and I sent text messages back and forth and when he came to the high school he saw me in the weight-room working out. Finally he sent me a text saying the head coach (Bret Bielema) wanted to offer me a scholarship.
"I was definitely surprised they (Wisconsin) offered me. I mean I played last year but Dale was the man and I didn't think my highlight tape was that impressive but the coaches keep telling me that it is so I believe them.
"I'm definitely planning to go to a Wisconsin this fall to check out a game and I might get up there this summer for a visit."
Wisconsin may be Smith's biggest offer at this point but do the Badgers hold a lead for his services?
"No, not right now," said Smith. "I like a lot of schools. Illinois State was one of the first schools to offer me and I went down there my sophomore year and liked it a lot. I mean they are a smaller school but I really liked it down there.
"Coach (Chris) Patton has been very good to me. I feel comfortable with him and that's what's going to mean a lot to me when I make my decision.
"I know for me, it's not going to be the biggest school or the best program. I'm looking for the best fit and where I feel the biggest comfort level.
"Iowa State is another school that has offered me and the new coaching staff really has it together over there. Cincinnati has offered me and I like them. Boston College, Akron and Wyoming have all offered.
"The bottom line is I've told all the coaches that I'm open, completely open. I hear from Cincinnati, Iowa State, Illinois State and Wisconsin all the time but Wyoming was one of my first offers and I haven't heard from them in over a month, so they must not be that interested.
"I hear from Illinois State and they're a D-1AA school. The fact that an Illinois State thinks enough of me to stay in contact despite all the other offers means a lot." Smith and his Bolingbrook Raiders start camp next week and Erik is ready for his next challenge. What did he learn from Dale Martin last year?
"I felt my junior year was a stepping stone to my senior year," Smith said. "Dale and I were tight. We hung out all the time. What I learned from him was just to be humble and work hard.
"I learned a lot about the recruiting process from Dale. We would talk all the time about what he was going through and which schools he liked and all that. I'm going to be a better player on the field because of Dale and I learned about the recruiting process off the field by being around him."
Erik Smith is originally from Chicago and moved to Florida as a youngster finally settling in Bolingbrook his sophomore year. Smith still has family in the Sunshine State and we asked Erik if he wants to stay in the Midwest to play his college football or if he's open to travel?
"I'm just looking for the best fit," said Smith. "If it's close, it's close. If I have to go away, I'll go away.
"My favorites right now in no order are Boston College, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Illinois State and Akron." Smith said.
"Minnesota is also up there now. I've been talking to coach (Thomas) Hammock and they seem really interested in me."
Smith told us that as of right now he doesn't plan on committing early and he may wait until the end of the season. Erik is poised for a big senior season and more scholarship offers will definitely come his way.
For the schools that saw enough of Smith to offer early, they'll cross their fingers hoping that their early loyalty pays off. Stay tuned.
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