Mundy’s Mill running back Rodney Smith said the opportunities that Minnesota presents after football is over is what attracted him to the school. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
JONESBORO — When Rodney Smith took his official visit to Minnesota in late November, the temperature was three degrees in Minneapolis.
But the prospects of playing his college football in a cold weather state didn’t factor into his football options. On Thursday evening, Smith announced that he would sign with Minnesota next month on National Signing Day.
“After sitting down and talking with my parents, we decided that Minnesota was my best option,” Smith said. “Life after football in the city of Minneapolis has some good options. It was more than just a football decision.”
If he signs with the program on Feb. 5, the first day high school seniors can sign their scholarship offers, he would be the second Southern Crescent player to ink with the Big Ten program. Last February, former Dutchtown High standout Donovahn Jones signed with the Golden Gophers.
Jones played in 10 games last season as a wide receiver.
“Rodney can play anywhere,” said Mundy’s Mill coach Greg Manior, a former standout fullback at North Carolina State. “They have an offense similar to ours. I think he will fit right in up there. Minnesota has always been in the picture.”
Last weekend, Smith and his parents visited East Carolina. He canceled his trip to Southern Mississippi this weekend after committing to the Golden Gophers.
Smith has family ties to Mississippi as both his parents are from the state.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pounder became the 14th member of the Gophers’ 2014 recruiting class and second running back commitment. Smith is considered a three-star recruit by 247sports.com and a two-star prospect by Rivals.com. This past season, he rushed for 2,201 yards and 26 touchdowns after recovering from offseason knee surgery.
As a junior, Smith rushed for 1,575 yards and 15 touchdowns in nine games after sustaining a season-ending knee injury against Ola. He had 196 yards in the first quarter before the injury.
“I think I have a chance to come in and contribute,” Smith said.
The Gophers return leading rusher David Cobb, who rushed for 1,205 yards in leading the team to a 8-5 record and appearance in the Texas Bowl.
Minnesota received a verbal commitment last February from Minneapolis native Jeff Jones, a four-star prospect, who played in the prestigious Under Armor All-American game. Jones has acknowledged to several media outlets that he will make a signing day announcement about his choice.
Smith said that he and Jones would give the Gophers a solid running back tandem in the future.
“I’m hoping both of us will make a big impact on the program,” Smith said.