LUMBERTON — Kion Smith knows that playing college football will take heart and working with heart is what the 6-foot-5, 260-pound offensive lineman from Lumberton is no stranger to after a senior year that had its fair share of twists and turns.
On Friday, Smith signed his letter of intent to play football for Fayetteville State University after overcoming many obstacles in the last year from a back injury to test scores and it gave him a sense of relief going forward.
“It was hard. Some times I felt like this day wouldn’t come,” he said. “They say size don’t matter and all that matters is heart.”
Before the season started, a back and lower body injury while attempting to power clean sidelined Smith and caused him to miss the first six games of the season. Making it back for the start of conference play, coach Mike Setzer saw an energized Smith take the field and lead the offensive front against some of the best teams in the state.
“When he came back the last part of the season hd really played a great game against Pinecrest and then all the way to the playoff game at Page,” he said.
Smith and the Pirates’ offensive line helped lead the way for Robeson County Offensive Player of the Year Troy Mitchell during his 1,500-yard rushing season in 2015.
Along with having to overcome injury to get back on the field, Smith also worked on meeting the SAT requirements for attendance after not reaching them in his previous tries.
While Smith was prepping himself to get over the shortcomings on his first try, Fayetteville State sat eager for Smith.
“He didn’t take the no,” Setzer said. “He kept working and kept coming to the weight room and doing what he was supposed to do.”
“I was working hard everyday and getting better and better everyday,” Smith said. “I finally got back and felt good to play and I kept faith.”
Staying in state was the idea Smith had when going through the recruiting process and now just a short drive up I-95 and a coaching staff that he has a good feel for is a perfect fit for him.
“I love the coaching staff and the school is a nice place in general,” Smith said. “I can bring better pass protection to the team.”
Major colleges had offers on the table and were keeping an eye on Smith entering the year, but were quick to shy away after the early injury. Setzer said that Fayetteville State stayed through the process with Smith, giving them a Division I talent going to a Division II program.
“They are getting a steal,” Setzer said. “FSU understands and appreciates that they are getting a steal with him. A kid like that who isn’t injured goes on to bigger time football.”
Smith’s first collegiate game will come close to home as the Broncos open up against UNCP in Pembroke on Sept. 10. In Week 2 for Fayetteville State goes to Elon where Pete Townsend, Smith’s comrade on the offensive line signed to play this fall as well.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.