St. Al punter Smith signs with Hinds

Published 8:00 am Friday, February 8, 2019

When he first started kicking for St. Aloysius’ football team, Connor Smith took lessons from one of the program’s recent greats. Now he’s following in his footsteps in a different sort of way.

Smith, St. Al’s punter and kicker for the past two seasons, signed with Hinds Community College on Wednesday’s national signing day. He’s the second St. Al kicker, after former Southwest Mississippi Community College’s Casey Griffith in 2015, to get an opportunity to play college football, and it’s not entirely a coincidence. They worked together during the offseason, which Smith said helped raise his skills to the next level.

“Casey was the one I used to work with all the time and he helped me get where I am now,” Smith said. “He’s the first one that taught me the right mechanics of not just punting, but kicking as well.”

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Smith said Hinds plans to use him as a punter and kickoff specialist. He handled those duties, as well as place kicking, very well at St. Al.

In two seasons, Smith made 55 of 63 PAT attempts, two field goals — one a 44-yarder — and averaged 37.4 yards per punt. He improved both his kicking accuracy and punting average from 2017 to 2018.

Smith received a full scholarship from Hinds, and picked them over another offer from Belhaven University. He chose Hinds, he said, with an eye on starting both his academic and athletic careers before moving on to a four-year school in a couple of years.

“It’s a really big opportunity, because I get to continue my athletic and academic career. My family helped me through it and I thank them,” Smith said. “I was surprised that they picked me. (St. Al coach Michael) Fields knows their coaches and put in a good word for me. They looked at me and chose me.”

Smith was among 23 players signed by Hinds on signing day. The list included Warren Central defensive lineman Vertez Shorter and Port Gibson wide receiver D’Marious Hicks.

Shorter was an MHSAA Class 6A All-State selection in 2018. The three-year starter had 72 total tackles and 19 tackles for loss last season, and finished his high school career with 8 ½ sacks.

The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Hicks played quarterback at Port Gibson but signed with Hinds as a wide receiver. He ran for 1,189 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, while also completing 36 of 95 passes for 584 yards and two touchdowns.

In all, Hinds signed four offensive linemen, six defensive linemen, five linebackers, three defensive backs, two wide receivers, two running backs and one kicker.

“I am so pleased with this signing class,” Hinds head coach Larry Williams said.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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