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Highland Park Linebacker Played for Notre Dame

Scott Smith offered football scholarships to about 20 schools.

It's really every football player's dream. 

You are sitting in a classroom when, all of the sudden, your football coach comes to class and asks the teacher to talk with you.

Uh-oh, is some equipment missing?

Not in this case. It was football coach Kurt Weinberg passing the news to student Scott Smith that Bowling Green University wanted to offer him a scholarship to play football in Ohio.

"I was wondering if he was kidding me," Smith recalled. "I had no idea I was that good in football. I really thought of myself as a basketball player."

Sure, Smith was a good basketball player. His coach at the time was .

A 'dominating' high school player

"Scott was a great competitor and the best rebounder I have ever been around," Harris said. "He was a class act both on and off the court."

But, as everyone knows, this was no ordinary football player. By 2004, he was clearly one of the best linebackers in the state of Illinois.

"Scott Smith is the most dominating high school defensive player I have ever seen,'' said Highland Park assistant football coach Mike Harrison. "He was a terror for other teams to play against. He was tall, strong, athletic, fast and most of all, very smart."

Harrison watched as Smith matured into a terrific player. His statistics from his senior year were amazing. He was credited with 143 tackles. That included the school record of 23 tackles against Vernon Hills in the fall of 2004.

Bowling Green did not get to sign Smith up for football. By this time, there were 20 colleges after this special player. Smith chose Notre Dame University.

"He was good as a sophomore and great as a junior," Harrison said. "But once he signed with the University of Notre Dame, it seemed to transform him into a remarkable player."

Smith recalled that Vernon Hills game where he positively dominated the Vernon Hills offense.

"I think Vernon Hills had a senior starting quarterback who didn't play," Smith said. "So they played a sophomore in that game. They ran an option to my left and I caught him under his chin and picked him up. I think I got a pick six in that game, too. Our coaches had us well-prepared for that game."

Football with the Little Giants

Before he made a career of crushing offensive players, Smith concentrated on basketball and other sports.

"I was really big into basketball," Smith said. "I played with the Highwood All-Stars and AAU. Basketball was my first love. I dabbled in baseball and soccer."

His first venture into football came with the Little Giants.

"I was always pretty big and quick,'' Smith said. "I was one of the biggest kids. But I was still unsure by eighth grade what sports to work on."

His first taste of basketball was a good one. He was a freshman and went along to Peoria when the boys hoops team qualified for the state tournament.

"We went to the Elite Eight," he said. "That was pretty cool being a freshman."

But it was football that Smith excelled at. With his 100 tackles as a junior and four interceptions, he was getting some attention.

"I still wasn't really expecting anything,'' he said. "I really didn't think I had that good a year as a junior. I didn't realize that I was good enough to get 15 to 20 scholarship offers."

Harrison certainly knew there was a Division I player knocking down players for the Giants team. He recalled watching Smith dominate action at state power Maine South.

"Unfortunately we lost, but I remember Scott being the best player on the field that day,'' Harrison said. "That is saying a lot when you play Maine South. He also was good enough that he could stop the option on his own."

Smith prefers to recall a big win over rival Deerfield that season.

"I had hurt my knee against Evanston and didn't practice that week,'' Smith said. "I know I had 10 to 12 tackles and we just trounced them. It was like 49-7."

Smith narrowed his college choices to Michigan State, UCLA and Notre Dame. On his 18th birthday, he opted for the Irish.

He was going to play major college football.

Harrison knew it was time to let this linebacker move on.

Playing at Notre Dame

"After his last game, former defensive coordinator Andy Knotek looked at me and said, 'You just coached the best linebacker you will ever have," Harrison recalled. "He knew then how special Smitty was."

At Notre Dame, a coaching change brought in Charley Weis. Smith was redshirted his sophomore season after seeing playing time as a freshman. In 2009, he was approved to play as a fifth-year senior.

"I wanted to get one more shot," Smith said. "We had kind of an up and down year but I was one of the captains, which was a pretty special honor. I knew football wasn't going to last and it was time to use my degree."

Smith is a health IT consultant for Deloitte Consulting. It's been tough to say so long to his favorite sport.

"Watching Notre Dame games is tough for me," he said. "Maybe I'm too close to it. It brings back memories that I belong on the field. But I gave it my best shot."

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