Shorter College will have its best football season ever next year. The coaching staff can say that with the utmost confidence.
That's because it will be the first season Shorter has participated in football. And one Thomson Bulldog will be a large part of that history-making endeavor.
Thomson High's Matt Smith (front right) looks on as his mom, Elisa, signs his letter of intent. Also looking on are Smith's brother, Austin (back left) and father, Sidney.
Matt Smith, a senior defensive lineman for Thomson this past season, has decided to attend Shorter next year and be a part of its inaugural football team. His parents and coaches are glad to see that a diligent nice guy is getting this chance.
"We're real proud," said Matt's father Sidney. "He's just always been a real hard worker."
"Matt is a great kid who has worked hard to earn an opportunity to further his football career," said Thomson Defensive Coordinator John Barnett. "While we were disappointed as to how our season ended this year, we were never disappointed in Matt Smith. While seldom vocal, he led by example and will be missed."
Matt is excited about the opportunity to further his football career at a place where he will be a part of a noteworthy team.
"It's an honor. I've just always loved football, and it's just good to get to play four more years, hopefully," Matt said. "I'm so proud to be a part of it. I just hope I can do whatever they need me to do to be successful, to be a winning team,"
And his time on the gridiron -- like the time spent helping his father coach little league -- will help in his field of study. Matt hopes to earn a teaching degree and become a coach as well, at Thomson High if possible.
"Teaching has just been always something I've been interested in, and I've looked up to all my coaches I've had throughout school so much. That's just something I'd love to do," he said.
Shorter Football Coach Phil Jones -- who once coached under former University of Georgia Coach Jim Donnan -- sees that as a plus for his team. When faced with the task of recruiting 100 players to a school with no facilities and no tradition, he turned to sources he knew would come through.
"We're excited about having somebody out of that Thomson program, Coach Welsh and his staff and the tradition there," Coach Jones said. "It's important for us, without having older players as examples, to have youngsters who understand expectations, understand winning tradition, and work ethic, etcetera, as they come here. It's already part of the way they've been brought up as a player. That's a contributing factor to us in regard to Matt."
Matt's parents liked Coach Jones from the beginning, and were glad to see that Matt chose to attend a Christian school with a Christian Coach.
"He's a super guy. When we first met with him, one of the first things he asked Matt was 'Are you a Christian?'" Mr. Smith said.
Matt stands to get much playing time on defensive line and special teams due to the lack of a depth chart on a team filled with freshman and a couple of sophomore transfers.
Aside from his skill on the field, it was his character that made him attractive to the Shorter coaching staff.
"Matt had an interest in Shorter, without a doubt," Coach Phil Jones said. "He was very impressive on his visit here. He's a good student, a high character individual."
Those same characteristics caused his high school teammates and coaches to respect Matt during his four years at THS.
"Coach Jones has signed a fine football player, and even more important, a fine young man who will be a credit to his inaugural team," Coach Barnett said.