First, some particulars. Smith, who yesterday made an oral commitment to play defensive back at West Virginia, is a 6-foot, 190-pound senior at Archbishop Wood, and a star across many skies (wideout, safety, cornerback, return man). He formerly excelled for George Washington.
Washington last year lost the Public League Class AAAA championship, 13-6, to Northeast, on a touchdown that featured a trick-play pass from holder Lamont Davis to receiver Deion Barnes. Wood, meanwhile, advanced to a PIAA Class AAA semifinal only to be waxed by Allentown Central Catholic, 49-27, and the 602-yard, seven-TD performance of quarterback Brendan Nosovitch (419-5 in air, 183-2 on ground).
"Their story is better . . . Well, worse," Smith said yesterday. "Just for the simple fact they were there. So close to getting to the state championship game. But they couldn't pull through.
"This year, there'll be a whole different outcome, if we do make it that far. We've been talking about that again and again."
Smith is the among the final defenders and often the very last one. Whatever happens against ACC, or anyone else, as the powerful Vikings (6-1 overall, 303-62 scoring advantage) move forward, his performance will be crucial.
"Big responsibility," Smith said. "But I'm up for any challenge. All I have to do is play football and do what I'm taught and use all my technique. Don't miss a tackle . . . Don't miss a tackle."
Smith discussed that scenario while perched in a front-row seat in Wood's auditorium. Minutes earlier, flanked by family members and coach Steve Devlin, he'd pulled off the hat of his former youth-ball squad, the North Philly Aztecs, and replaced it with one from West Virginia.
The news conference, attended only by the Daily News, did not exactly break world records for length, much to the disappointment of his teammates.
A few minutes beforehand, an announcement over the school's PA system had advised the football players to return to class immediately afterward.
When star rusher Brandon Peoples sat down in the front row, he quipped, "Ask as many questions as possible."
Not much to tell. Smith said he felt good about West Virginia since attending the 2011 Spring Game and that the positive vibrations were reinforced in one other unofficial visit.
He later said he gave strong consideration to Temple and Toledo, but went with West Virginia because of its will to win.
"That's the same goal I have - win," he said.
Smith, who intends to major in sports medicine, is the Vikings' sixth Division I-A commit. Not this century. This season. The others: Brandon Peoples to Temple; running back Desmon Peoples (Brandon's cousin) and lineman Brandon Arcidiacono (lineman) to Rutgers; lineman Frank Taylor to Boston College and lineman Colin Thompson to Florida.
Given his choice, the listed college position for Smith will be wideout.
This season, he has turned 12 catches into an outrageous 393 yards (32.8 average) and four TDs and his career totals show 63-1,260-19. How many high school kids rack up 20 yards per catch over their careers?
"I feel as though I can make more plays at receiver," Smith said. "With the ball in my hands, I feel I'm unstoppable. Like no one man can tackle me. I'm electrifying.
"They see me on defense, though, because I'm physical and bigger than most of the corners in college, or even the NFL. My hips are great and I have good footwork."
Most freshmen, of course, don't sniff varsity football. Smith started for Washington and posted a TD in just his second game.
Does he remember?
"Interception," he said immediately. "I was really an outside linebacker, but that was my first start at safety. The quarterback dropped back and I saw the tight end come across my face. No one was behind me, so it was up to me to make the play. I intercepted the ball and I was gone.
"I was so excited, I didn't know what to do . . . I tried not to celebrate too much."
Smith said he's proud of being a 4-year varsity player. He feels he has helped his teams while at the same time receiving great insights from teammates and coaches.
Because he lives in Olney, on Rubicam Street near 3rd, traveling to Washington every day involved a bit of a time commitment. Wood, in Warminster, is even farther.
"I just needed a change. Some new scenery," he said of his transfer. "I needed a school where I could really buckle down and do what I needed to do [academically]. Wood's name came up. I checked it out and now I'm here."
And the time is flying by.
"Playing varsity as a freshman; that seems like yesterday," Nate Smith said. "Now I've made my college commitment and I'm ready to graduate."
Not yet. He needs to create a great, season-ending story for Football 2011.