GRAND RAPIDS -- In a perfect world, Corey Smith would be enjoying his senior year at Buchtel High School, with a Division I scholarship awaiting him, and helping the football team compete for a state championship.
Instead, the four-star wide receiver from Akron, Ohio, is biding his time with the nationally ranked Grand Rapids Community College football team.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Smith verbally committed to the University of Tennessee in May. He chose the Volunteers over Michigan State, West Virginia, Illinois and Ohio State.
But when academic issues arose after transferring from another high school as a freshman, Smith opted to forgo his senior year in high school.
"I was looking forward to my senior year as a preseason All-American, and I was invited to a couple All-American games, but in May, my high school coach told me that my freshman year credits were messed up, and if I stayed, then I would have to go to a Division II or JUCO next year," Smith said.
"So, it was best for me to get it out of the way early. I dropped out of high school, but I went to get my GED and I passed the first time taking it. It was hard for me to leave high school, because when I look at my team now, if I was there, it would be different."
Buchtel football coach Ricky Powers, a former standout at the University of Michigan, told the Akron Beacon Journal that Smith was eligible to come back and play one more season there, but his chances to play Division I football would be hindered because of the early high school credit issues.
Smith now must complete 62 credit hours within two years to play Division I football.
He can’t officially sign a letter of intent with Tennessee, or any other school, until December 2012.
Tennessee had a plan in place to send Smith to East Mississippi Community College to further his education, but the long distance didn’t suit Smith.
"I didn’t feel comfortable going that far away and not knowing anybody," Smith said. "My godbrother is at GRCC, and after talking to coach (Tony) Annese, I decided to come here."
While Smith was the star player in high school, he was forced to adjust to a different role at GRCC. He is one of several top-notch athletes comprising the Raiders’ roster and has dealt with diminished playing time.
"I’m humbling myself, because at the beginning, I was expecting to get the ball a lot like I did in high school," Smith said. "After the first two games, I wasn’t getting the ball as much as I wanted and I got mad.
"I got in trouble, and had to sit out a half, but I texted my receivers coach and told him that I was going to go 110 percent all the time and give my best effort all the time. That experience really helped me grow up and become a better team player. This is good competition for me, and the older guys are teaching me a lot for when I do go Division I."
Through five games, Smith has caught 10 passes for 151 yards and scored a touchdown. He also returns punts.
After the early conflict, GRCC coach Tony Annese said Smith has become the "consummate" team player.
"He is being a good, supportive teammate, and he’s working hard on being a good perimeter blocker and making plays when he has the chance," Annese said. "He is a game breaker."
Smith and his teammates are preparing for their biggest test of the season when they welcome No. 5-ranked Iowa Western Community College to Houseman Field on Saturday night.
Iowa Western spoiled the Raiders’ national championship hopes last season when it defeated them 15-12. It was GRCC’s only loss of the regular season.
"We all remember how excited they were to beat us, and they stormed the field," Annese said. "But the motive isn’t revenge, it is to play our best and keep ourselves in position where we are playing for a league championship."