By Rory Sharrock
Football experts throughout the Southern Crescent know all about Riverdale senior wide receiver Hakeem Smith.
Now, the whispers about his skills have spread beyond the region and even state lines.
Recently, the stud receiver was selected to the Atlanta Falcons' All-Tournament team, where he showcased his talents in the Falcons' 7-on-7 Passing Tournament in the Crescent City of New Orleans at the Saints practice facility.
This was a follow up to his performance with Atlanta's passing clinic in Flowery Branch, where only the elite players at the camp were invited to New Orleans to participate in the national tournament, which featured some of the country's best high school athletes.
"We enjoyed ourselves," said Smith. "It was great competing against some of the best to get to see where we were at. We learned about off-the-field activities and how to present ourselves with positive character."
While in New Orleans, Smith in his teammates gave a valiant effort, however, they fell short to the eventual champions, the Seattle Seahawks, to finish in fourth place at 6-4 in this national competition.
Although this experience was extremely beneficial from an athletic point, football wasn't the only thing occupying his mind in New Orleans.
Smith and his players had a chance to really visit the city to view the post-Katrina New Orleans, where he saw first-hand the tragic landscape of this once proud area, which now looks like an abandoned war site.
"It was sad," said Smith. "They gave us a tour around the ninth ward. They showed us where the levees broke, all the damage and where things were destroyed. We were standing on land where people's houses used to be and there was nothing there but grass."
However, now that he's back in town, it's all about the business of winning football games at Riverdale High School.
The Raiders open camp this summer under a new coach in Nick Davis, who comes to the school after coaching at Shiloh.
Last season, Riverdale went 5-5 and 2-4 in 4A-AAAA.
However, with realignment, Smith and the Raiders are looking to improve their position in Region 4B-AAAA with teams like Creekside, Newnan and Chapel Hill and Clayton County rival Lovejoy.
"I'm trying to make All-Region and do big things this year. We're learning new plays and everything is going well," he said.
Riverdale opens the 2008 season Aug. 30 versus North Clayton at Tara Stadium.