Hillsboro's Nate Smith made a big decision this past month, choosing to attend and play football for Eastern Washington University next fall. But while choosing a college is undoubtedly an important call for any high school senior, for Smith it was made easier after his first visit to the Big Sky Conference school in Cheney, Washington.
"At Eastern Washington, it's just a great family culture," Smith said. "When you visit, you just feel at home. It's a place that leaves a mark on you that you can't forget."
Smith, who was a Special District #1 West first teamer at both tight end and defensive lineman and conference player of the year on the defensive side of the ball, was recently selected to the Oregon 5A all-state first team defense. However, despite his defensive prowess and the accolades that have come with it, the 6-foot-5 senior will be playing tight end for the Eagles. He said he had a "few" other schools he was looking at prior to his decision, but settled on Eastern following his visit, ultimately meeting what he said was a goal from his youth.
"Playing college football has been one of my dreams since I was a little kid," he said. "Division-I was the thing I've wanted the most in my life, and was able to achieve it."
The physical presence was obviously a key contributor for a Spartans team that bounced back from a 4-5 year in 2018, and just six total wins over the previous two seasons, to finish with a 6-3 regular season and earn a spot in this year's state playoffs. But despite both his individual and team success, Smith knows there's a lot of work to be done if he's going to have similar success at the collegiate level. The Eagles have been a player on the Football Championship Subdivision (I-AA) national stage for a number of years now, and even made it all the way to the FCS national championship game two years ago, losing to perennial power North Dakota State 38-24.
"I have talked with the coaches and there is always something I can improve on," he said. "That's why this offseason is going to be huge trying to get ready for the grind of college football."
Smith said that he — like most high school seniors — is still undecided regarding what he wants to study and/or major in at college, but is leaning towards business. He also wanted to thank everyone who was paramount in helping him make his college football dream come true, including his family, coaches those who helped him on his journey "to the next level," he said.
And now that his high school career is nearing an end, what will he remember most about his time at Hillsboro High School?
"I will remember my teammates most definitely, the bonds I created and the brothers I've been playing with since the third grade," Smith said. "I'll never forget those guys."
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