Samuel D. Logan
The Valdosta Daily Times
Valdosta High Wildcat middle linebacker Anthony Smith is ready to prove his mettle Friday night, ready to go toe to toe in the annual Winnersville Classic against the Lowndes High Vikings.
“Everyone says Lowndes' having a down year. I don’t like when people say that. They’re going to play as hard as they can and we are going to do the same,” said Smith.
Smith is a 17-year-old middle linebacker for the Wildcats and has been a starter since his sophomore season. Smith also started as linebacker for the Wildcat ninth-grade team.
Smith was born and raised in Valdosta and has been playing football since the age of 5. Born on Dec. 3, 1995, to Clarence and Contina Smith, Anthony has been a linebacker since he started playing football.
His father works for FedEx and his mother is a local social worker in the city. Both have been a motivational force for Smith on and off the field.
Smith has only played one other position outside of linebacker. At Valdosta Middle, Smith was a quarterback, but decided linebacker was the spot for him when he enrolled in Valdosta High.
Smith, in his opinion, is enjoying his best season thus far as a Wildcat, making several big plays for the defense, including a safety against Camden County earlier in the season.
Smith’s teammates have also noticed the linebacker’s growth on the field and as a leader, voting him team captain for the defense.
“When I was voted defensive captain, I felt like my teammates trusted me to lead them to a great year,” said Smith.
On the field, Smith plays with passion, determination and heart, which is exactly what you want from a leader of your team.
“I have a lot of heart. I’m always making noise and talking to the guys. I kind of wear my emotions on my sleeves; if I’m mad, I show it on the field,” added Smith.
Off the field, Smith is a student with goals to attend college and major in criminal justice.
He has a 3.2 grade point average and history is his favorite subject. When Smith is not at practice or playing in a game, he enjoys watching game film, television, sleeping and working out.
Smith was honored at the Wildcats homecoming game against Newton as homecoming king. When asked how that accomplishment felt, Smith said, “It was crazy. It was like a fairy tale really. Normally it’s the popular people who win, but I was a guy who just plays football and loves my school, and I won. It was a great feeling.”
Smith is deciding which college to attend, receiving offers to play linebacker at Kennesaw, Mercer and the University of Alabama Birmingham.
While getting to know Anthony Smith, he shared a few of his favorite things. His favorite color is blue, favorite food is ribs, favorite movie is the "Shawshank Redemption" and his favorite book is "Crispus Attucks."
Smith’s favorite athlete is Dont’a Hightower, a linebacker for the New England Patriots.
“He (Hightower) is a lot like me. He started off as an outside linebacker and moved inside later in his career. He is an explosive player and someone I try to emulate when I play. I watched him at Alabama and have watched ever since,” said Smith.
He is a fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Dallas Cowboys.
In addition to Hightower, Smith learned a lot from Jonathan Hester, an ex-VHS linebacker who took Smith under his wing once he arrived at VHS.
“He was a great player and taught me a lot,” said Smith.
As the Wildcats prepare for the Winnersville Classic, they will focus on getting a win, as they did two years ago in the final minute of a game no one will ever forget.
Smith is ready to play in his last Winnersville Classic, a game that has more history than any high school rivalry in South Georgia.
“Being my last one, it’s going to be emotional for me, and I am going to leave it all out on the field,” said Smith.
The Wildcats will kick off against the Lowndes Vikings, 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11, Martin Stadium.