WAPELLO, Iowa − Entering his freshman season, Wapello's Laith Smith admitted he wasn't a big fan of football.
He thought in four years from then he'd be at Iowa State University studying agriculture without any plans of pursuing the sport at the next level.
But with continuous encouragement and support from his parents and coaches, it didn't take long for the game to grow on Smith.
The senior wrapped up his final season in an Indians football uniform in October, reeling in Class 1A District 4 MVP honors as a defensive lineman as well as third-team all-state recognition.
And after a signing ceremony Wednesday in the Wapello High School library, Smith is gearing up for the next chapter of his football career at Upper Iowa University.
Wapello coach Todd Parsons expects that Smith will strictly play defensive line, where he excelled at Wapello this past season, recording a team-high 59.5 total tackles and three solo sacks.
"Laith's been an excellent role model for our younger kids to follow," Parsons said. "He's an extremely hard worker. He's earned everything he's gotten through hard work, discipline, accountability. He was always very coachable. He was willing to do what we asked him to do. He really bought in at a young age and never questioned anything."
Parsons believes those traits will transfer well to the next level and thought the 6-foot-2 280-pound lineman made a good choice to join Upper Iowa, which he called an up-and-coming program.
The Peacocks, a Division II team located in Fayette, Iowa, finished last season with a 6-5 record after winning just three games in 2016.
"(Smith) just needs to go in, have a good attitude, work hard, be coachable and continue to do what he's been doing," Parsons said. "I think he's going to have some success there."
With his commitment to the Peacocks, Smith will still have the opportunity to pursue an education in agriculture, although he said Wednesday that he hasn't decided definitively on a major.
"Academics played a really big role, and just the culture of the program was great," Smith said on why he committed to Upper Iowa. "I loved everything about it, and I wouldn't change my decision for the world."
The teammate Smith was tasked with protecting on the offensive line this past season, Logan Belzer, officially announced his plans to play college football as well on Wednesday.
Wapello's starting quarterback for the past three seasons sent out a message earlier in the day on Twitter saying he will join Division III Wartburg next fall.
"I'm happy for (Smith and Belzer)," Parsons said. "It's good for our program. It's nice to see kids that bought in and did the things that are necessary to allow themselves the opportunity to play at the next level. I'm excited for both of them."