Harnett Central senior Hayden Smith, of Lillington, has signed to play football at Campbell University.
“It (the decision) happened about two weeks ago,” Smith said. “I’d been in contact with them for a few weeks and it worked out where they told me I’d have a spot on the team and I took it.”
Smith, who played two years of junior varsity and two years of varsity football at the quarterback position, said he will continue to play quarterback when he joins the Camels.
Campbell played its first year of Division I football as a member of the Big South Conference last year. Smith felt privileged to be a part of program on the rise.
“It means a lot,” Smith said. “They’ve done a lot in the past five years to develop the program. Just taking a tour there and watching them practice, it just looks like a whole different place compared to where it used to be. It’s a great opportunity and I’m excited.”
Smith noted that being close to home was one of several factors in his decision.
“It’ll be nice,” Smith said. “I’m sure my parents will love it. It’ll be pretty easy. It won’t be too much of an adjustment. Definitely being close to home and it being easy to transition from high school to college there. Most of it (his decision) was they were one of the few Division I schools to give me the opportunity to have a roster spot right off the bat. It was just a great opportunity.”
Smith said most of the contact he had with the coaching staff was with assistants Ben Bolling, wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator and a former standout receiver for Campbell, and Adam Morris, the quarterbacks coach.
“They’ve been great all throughout the process,” Smith said. “Coach Bolling’s been great. He’s been quick to respond and very high on me. Overall, it turned out really well.”
Smith had not entirely decided on a major. He said he wanted to do something related to the business field, likely sports marketing. He noted hopes of working for Nike or possibly becoming a coach in the future as possibilities he saw for himself after college.
In addition to football, Smith played one year of junior varsity and two years of varsity basketball as well as competing four years in varsity track and field.
“It just helps you become a better athlete all-around, especially track,” Smith said. “Track’s really good for the ins and outs of stretching and exercise. It’s not always fun, but it’s a good sport. Basketball’s good for quickness. Just playing sports year-round can help you become a better athlete and I think it has helped me in the long run.”
Smith mentioned a particular standout memory from his time playing football at Harnett Central as the first time he completed a touchdown pass.
“It felt really good,” Smith said. “It was just an icebreaker and it felt amazing. I thought, ‘It’s only up from here.'”