ITHACA – Jake Smith is more than one of the most talented football players in mid-Michigan.
The Ithaca senior quarterback is also one of the brightest.
That combination of skills on the field and smarts in the classroom captured the attention of some Ivy League schools and several others.
And Smith ultimately decided to further his football career and education in the Ivy League and signed with Harvard on Wednesday morning in a small ceremony at Ithaca High School.
Smith recently decided on Harvard, choosing it over offers from Brown, Dayton, Bryant University and Davenport.
“Coming from a winning high school program, I think it’s very important to join another winning program,” said Smith, who guided the Yellowjackets to their fifth Division 6 state title in six years last fall. “They’ve won the last three Ivy League championships and I can see myself being part of something special there.”
Yellowjackets football coach Terry Hessbrook believes Smith, who has a 4.1 grade point average, is the first athlete from Ithaca to play a sport at an Ivy League institution.
“This is a pretty big day for our whole school and our community,” Hessbrook sad. “When you have a kid of Jake’s caliber that gets a chance to go on from rural mid-Michigan and play in the Ivy League and play at Harvard University, that’s a dream come true for all of us as educators. Our teaching staff, our administration and our entire community should be so proud that we have a kid that has an opportunity to do that. Life is all about the connections that you make and he’s going to make connections at Harvard University that the rest of us are never going to experience in our lives.
“When you make those connections, those are the types of things that set you up for life. Football is a small part of it.”
Before he arrives at Harvard, Smith plans to spend a year at prep school. He will likely attend Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and believes that will provide valuable preparations in football and academically for when he arrives at Harvard.
“I think that’s a major key,” Smith said. “Being able to play for that year is going to allow me to become a better player. It’s going to be some pretty good competition over there and I’ll be playing some good football.”
Smith was one of three Ithaca players to signed with schools Wednesday. Jace Demenov signed with Grand Valley and Grant Gimmey signed with Olivet.
Contact Brian Calloway at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @brian_calloway.