Scott Smith couldn’t catch a break.
Since graduating from Saint Louis School in 2007, Smith’s football career hasn’t gone according to plan.
It started at California, where things didn’t pan out for the highly recruited defensive end.
He gave it a second shot at Arizona, but never saw the field.
Finally, it took a trip to Butler Community College in Kansas for Smith to get a chance to show what he’s capable of.
"It’s one of my greatest memories," Smith said of his one semester at a junior college. "It was like high school again, having fun."
It was also a coming out party as Smith tortured opposing quarterbacks in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference.
PROFILE | Scott Smith
» School: Texas Tech
» Position: Defensive end
» Class: Junior
» Height: 6-foot-6
» Weight: 266 pounds
» High school: Saint Louis
» Notes: Top-rated JUCO defensive end and No. 4 overall JUCO recruit in 2010 by Rivals.com; NJCAA first team All-American, NJCAA Region VI defensive most valuable player, KJCCC defensive player of the year in 2009; first-team all-state in high school in 2006
He was the league’s defensive player of the year, recording 14 sacks to tie for sixth nationally. After two years of inactivity, Smith needed just 11 games to become the top-rated JUCO defensive end.
Division I schools started calling again and Smith’s third stint at an FBS school came down to Arkansas and Texas Tech.
He chose the Red Raiders, only to find out two days later, the coaching staff that recruited him there had been fired.
"I wanted to get my release and go to Arkansas instead," Smith said. "But when the new staff came in, they all flew out to see me in Hawaii and talked me out of it."
Like he did at Arizona and California, Smith started practice with the Red Raiders expecting to contribute right out of the gate.
Instead, he played a total of eight plays in the season opener against SMU.
"I was pissed," Smith said. "I came to practice the next week trying to hit anything that moved. I was trying to wreck shop in practice and just get noticed."
His workload increased against New Mexico, and Smith made it count, recording three tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
But his breakthrough performance came 11 days ago, when the Red Raiders hosted then-No. 4 Texas in a prime-time game televised on ABC.
Texas’ talented offensive line couldn’t block Smith, who had six tackles (three for loss), two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble, proving he could dominate at the FBS level the same way he did in junior college.
"I needed that one game to show the coaches here that I can be a player," Smith said. "My dream has always been to play in the league and that’s part of the reason I came (to Texas Tech).
"The coaches here told me they can get me to the league if I worked hard enough and I believe them."
Smith hopes to follow in the shoes of Tyson Alualu, a former teammate at Cal. Alualu was the 10th overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"I was watching the draft and I heard them say ‘the University of California’ " Smith recalled. "I thought for sure Jacksonville was drafting Jahvid Best, but then they said Tyson Alualu and I was pumped."
The Red Raiders play this weekend at Iowa State, where Smith is expected to get his first start.
It has taken three years and four different schools, but on Saturday, Smith will line up as a starting defensive end for a major college football team.
"Everybody knows it’s been a rough road," Smith said. "But I’m here now, I’m happy, and I’m ready to go out there and do what I love to do.
"Sack opposing quarterbacks."