A lot more goes into a college decision than playing time.
St. Clairsville senior Luke Smith is a prime example.
When the talented linebacker began going through the process of furthering his education, as well as extending his football career, the educational side of the matter was first and foremost.
Such is the reason why he decided to join the Mt. Union Purple Raiders' program.
"Mt. Union has a great academic reputation and they offer my major, which is mechanical engineering," Smith said.
Once he sorted out the academic side, obviously, the Purple Raiders' football success is unmatched at the Division III level, including winning the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl last December.
"Mt. Union has a long tradition of winning," Smith continued. "Plus, they have an outstanding coach (Larry Kehres), who's been there for 27 years and knows how to develop athletes not only to be great on the field, but off the field, as well. Coach Kehres is a no nonsense guy, who expects a lot out of his players in and out of the classroom."
Smith was a key cog in the success of the last three seasons for Coach Brett McLean's Red Devils and played a big role last season at linebacker when the Devils advanced to the Division IV state title game before falling to Clarksville Clinton-Massie.
"My high school career has been more than I ever imagined," Smith said. "My class and teammates set goals for ourselves when we were in sixth grade. My senior year was a dream come true. To be able to play in the state title game under a great group of coaches and with my best friends is something I won't ever forget."
Smith becomes the fifth member of St. C. senior class to announce his intentions to play at the next level. He joins Dan Monteroso (Purdue), Matt Kinnick (West Virginia State), Corey Ernest (West Liberty) and Cole Stephens (West Liberty).
McLean believes Smith will be an ideal fit at Mt. Union, which is where he played his collegiate ball, so the decision was especially exciting to the Red Devils' mentor.
"Luke has left a positve mark on our program for the future," McLean said. "I can only hope to have more kids come through (the program) who will give all they have to be successful just like Luke did. He worked his butt off, carried himself with class, played through pain and was a true team captain. I am just bursting with pride for him to attend my alma mater."
Smith, who led the Red Devils with better than 160 tackles last fall, turned in two of his top performances late in November. During the state title game, Smith was St. C.'s top tackler with 11 solo tackles and 13 total. He also had a strong performance in the semifinals against Creston-Norwayne.
From what he's been told by Purple Raider coaches, Smith appears to be headed for strong safety at the next level. To play at that spot, Smith knows he must improve his foot speed.
"I'll be working on my speed all spring and summer," Smith said. "I just have to continue to stay focused, work hard and hopefully we can win a national championship. I am just excited for this opportunity."
Smith, who was a team captain this past season, was recognized for his fine play as an all-OVAC, all-Eastern District, all-Buckeye 8 and all Times Leader first team selection. He was also the recipient of the George Strager Award, which is given annually to the Devils' "most dedicated player."
Before settling on the Purple Raiders, Smith also considered Dayton, Butler and the University of Charleston.
Smith is the consumate student-athlete. Along with his on-field exploits, he maintains a 4.2 grade point average. He's a member of the National Honor Society, all-OVAC Academic team and been on the honor roll all four years.
Luke is the son of John and Callie Smith.
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org