Ben Smiley breaks UVA football fans’ hearts

uva footballSome in the UVA football fan base are looking at the Ben Smiley verbal commitment saga along the lines of the Ronald Curry betrayal.

Smiley, a four-star defensive tackle from Chesapeake, tweeted yesterday that he was verbally committing to Virginia, setting off a social media celebration that briefly ensnared defensive line coach Vic So’oto.

And then, less than a half-hour later, Smiley deleted the tweet, and posted a new status update indicating that he will hold off on making a final decision on his college destination until after making all five of his official campus visits.

Wonk, wonk.

Among Smiley’s offers: Alabama, Miami, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Penn State.

Yeah. We’re going to be way, way down that list when it comes time for this kid to fax in his papers.

Somebody had to get to him. That’s what you’re seeing some speculating online. Maybe his coach, maybe a family member.

Maybe a rival recruiter got in his ear.

It’s not hard to figure what they could be in his ear saying.

Kid, remember the last couple of top defensive prospects they had commit there? Quin Blanding and Andrew Brown, who we’re told is a sort of athletic idol to Smiley, both were top 10 national recruits.

Blanding had a stellar career at UVA, Brown not so much, though he finished strong, and ended up being a fifth-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

You might recall where Blanding ended up going in the draft. Yeah, nowhere. Blanding is now fighting for his NFL life as an undrafted free agent in Washington.

It’s hard to account for that level of fall, from top 10 high school recruit to fifth round and UFA, except for throwing shade at the player-development aspect of what four years at Virginia can mean for you.

I’ll speak now as a fellow UVA alum and say, football doesn’t go on forever, and a UVA degree is worth a helluva lot more than a degree from ‘Bama, UM, Nebraska and the other football factories on Smiley’s offer list.

And, hey, Brown and Blanding, and Micah Kiser, among many other Virginia alums, are in the NFL now. And actually, according to, there are 23 UVA players on NFL rosters right now, interestingly enough, one more than the 22 Virginia Tech alums on rosters.

(And only a handful less than the, gulp, 60 ‘Bama guys on NFL rosters. Yeah, yikes.)

The part of this about the degree and post-NFL life is the perspective of an old guy who can point out that NFL careers are usually over by your late twenties, and if the actuarial tables are right, you’ve got 50, 55 years after that to make a difference in the world.

When you’re a four-star with offers from ‘Bama, UM, Big Red, etc., you’re assuming you’re a couple of years away from being a perennial Pro Bowler/Super Bowl MVP/future Hall of Famer.

Those of us who want to raise issue with a kid being blinded by the visions of sugarplums dancing in his head need to lay off just a little bit, is what I’m trying to say here.

Column by Chris Graham

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