DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Hunter Smith will follow in his father’s footsteps as a Division I student-athlete at the University of Maine beginning next fall — just in a different sport.
The Foxcroft Academy senior, fully recovered from a hip injury that sidelined him for his final season of high school football, verbally committed Tuesday to accept a full athletic scholarship from the Black Bears’ football program.
Smith, the son of Dean and Laurie Smith, plans to major in business and made official recruiting visits to both UMaine and Division II Bentley University before opting to play football where his father was a basketball star for the Black Bears during the late-1980s and early 1990s.
Hunter Smith is scheduled to sign his National Letter of Intent during a ceremony at 6 p.m. Feb. 3 at Foxcroft Academy.
“I’ve been going to the UMaine football camps every summer since I was a freshman,” said Smith, “so they had a pretty good idea of who I was, and after one of the camps, they decided to offer me, so I had that offer early.”
The UMaine offer came before Smith suffered a dislocated hip — a relatively rare football injury — during a preseason football game Aug. 28, 2015, at Orono High School.
Smith subsequently played in just one football game this season, the Blue-Gray North-South All-American Bowl on Jan. 9 in Tampa, Florida.
“When I got hurt, a lot of people who had been previously talking to me stopped talking to me,” said Smith. “So it came down to UMaine and Bentley as the two schools that kept contacting me, and it wasn’t an issue to them that I dislocated my hip because after I came back for basketball season and the all-star game, they could see I was at 100 percent.”
Smith also cited the financial implications of not having student debt once he graduates from UMaine thanks to the full scholarship, the chance to compete at the Division I level, and the proximity of his family, particularly younger brother Hyatt, a freshman at Foxcroft Academy.
“It’s been a windy road to get here,” said Smith, “but I’m glad I’m here now so things can calm down from here on out.”
The 6-foot-4, 180-pound Smith will play wide receiver at UMaine despite seeing only periodic duty at that position during his high school career. He expects to redshirt as a freshman on the Orono campus.
“They’ve got a pretty deep depth chart at wide receiver, and I definitely would like to have that year to acclimate my body to Division I speed and strength,” he said. “But if they end up having injuries, I might have to step into a role.”
Smith played junior varsity quarterback and some tight end as a freshman at Foxcroft Academy, then moved to wide receiver as a sophomore and earned all-conference honors. He shifted to quarterback early his junior year and went on to rush for 1,037 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Despite missing his entire senior season of football at Foxcroft Academy, Smith continued to contribute to the team in other ways.
“He was an unquestioned captain of a team that he didn’t even get to participate with on the field of play,” said Foxcroft Academy coach Danny White. “He motivated us in practice and during game situations while on the sidelines, and certainly his influence on his teammates was felt even with the circumstances he was under.”
Smith returned to competition this winter with the school’s basketball team and last week scored his 1,000th career point for the Ponies in front of a crowd that included four members of the UMaine coaching staff, among them, new Black Bears head coach Joe Harasymiak.
Smith also is the defending Class C outdoor track and field state champion in the 110 hurdles and high jump, and he finished second in the long jump and third in the 300 hurdles last spring.
“His skill sets are so unique and so broad that he’s able to do so many things in the field of competition,” said White. “He has incredible speed and for his height and age is incredibly agile and incredibly skilled. His athleticism is way above normal, and the most important thing I’ve seen over the last couple of years is that he’s learned to compete at a different level. I think he’s grown into that.
“Regardless of any personal accolades, he just wants to win,” he said.
Smith got the chance to return to the gridiron earlier this month at the Blue-Grey North-South All-American Bowl, a high school all-star game played at the home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers that featured many of the top major-college football recruits in the country. He had two pass receptions for 32 yards in the game.
Smith’s father, who was an All-Maine high school basketball player while at Foxcroft Academy, went on to star at UMaine, where he was a team captain and the leading scorer in America East as a senior in 1990.
Dean Smith also was a three-time Academic All-American for the Black Bears who was awarded the NCAA’s Walter Byers Award during the 1989-90 season as the top male student-athlete in the country.
The M Club presents the Dean Smith Award annually to one male and one female student-athlete who have displayed exemplary academic and athletic achievement.