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California Dreamin’ - Getting to Know Keyshawn Smith

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A look back at my interview with Keyshawn’s high school coach, David Dunn (audio)

Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Keyshawn Smith (88) catches a 42 yard pass over Clemson safety Tyler Venables (12), in a 42-17 Hurricanes loss at Death Valley on October 10, 2020

According to everyone close to the University of Miami football program, true freshman wide receiver Keyshawn Smith was having an incredible spring practice last year. The speed, athleticism, and play making ability on display had everyone at Greentree buzzing about the kid from California.

Unfortunately, that all came to an abrupt halt once the entire sports world was placed on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fast forward to spring practice 2021, and not much has changed. The world is still dealing with issues surrounding the virus and Keyshawn is still capturing the attention of coaches, fans, and teammates alike.

The difference between last year and this year with Smith and the Hurricanes is they will have a full spring to improve, complete with scrimmages and a spring game, unlike they did a year ago.

The hype surrounding his performance during practice took me back to February 2020, when I was able to chat with his former high school head football coach, David Dunn.

Coach Dunn of the Lincoln High School Hornets, and 1995 fifth round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, was gracious enough to go in depth with me about the Lincoln High Hornets’ 10-3 season, the kind of player Keyshawn is, and what Canes fans can expect from him during his career at Miami. Enlightening, funny, and everything Canes fans want to hear about a first year player looking to make his mark, is the perfect way to describe the conversation.

Before diving in to the interview, let’s recap how Keyshawn arrived at Coral Gables.

Keyshawn Smith poses during a recruiting visit at Martin Stadium on the campus of Washington State University in December of 2019. Smith was originally committed to the Cougars before becoming a Miami Hurricane.

He wasn’t even supposed to be here. As a matter of fact, he signed his national letter of intent elsewhere to continue his academic and athletic career. Dawning #2 for the Lincoln High Hornets in San Diego, California, Keyshawn Smith chose to play football in Pullman, Washington under the guidance of offensive mastermind Mike Leach, for the Washington State Cougars.

This was an excellent decision for a play-making wide receiver that can do wonders with the ball in his hands in the open field. We are all aware of the wide open, air raid offense that Leach employs, and staying on the west coast, close to home, in an explosive system was an easy decision to make for Smith.

Head coach Mike Leach helped lead his team to a narrow 20-14 Sun Bowl victory over the Miami Hurricanes on December 26, 2015.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

As fate would have it, that all changed in the blink of an eye. In about a month’s span, Smith signed a national letter of intent to become a Cougar, Mike Leach left Wazzu for the SEC, and on January 20, 2020, head coach Manny Diaz visited Keyshawn . The sequence of events resulted in the talented west coast product enrolling at the University of Miami the next day.

Rhett Lashlee, who was introduced as Miami’s new offensive coordinator on January 4, 2020, helped lead a Southern Methodist University offense to 11th in the country in terms of yards gained (6,368 yds - exactly 200 yds behind Leach’s offense in 2019). This proved to be a huge selling point for Smith.

After Smith’s commitment to Miami went public, there was plenty to be excited about. By all accounts, Miami seemed to have picked up a big time, “under the radar” athlete. Lincoln High School has produced great talent over the years, NFL greats such as Marcus Allen and Terrell Davis are only some of the notables to walk the halls at Lincoln. Norman Powell, a 2019 NBA champion with the Toronto Raptors, who is now a member of the Portland Trail Blazers is also a graduate of Lincoln.

There is plenty to look forward to in regards to what the 6-1, 182 lb. Smith can bring to the table in 2021. The California athlete fits right in with an offense that is designed to get its playmakers in space. With Keyshawn expected to be in the wide receiver rotation along with Charleston Rambo, Mike Harley, and others, this could be the breakthrough season the Miami Hurricanes football program has been waiting on.

Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Keyshawn Smith hauls in a pass during spring practice at Greentree Fields on the campus of the University of Miami, in Coral Gables, Florida.
Manny Navarro

Take a listen to the interview below as coach Dunn shares plenty of insight about Smith. Everything from how Keyshawn has quarterbacking experience, to hearing how important he was to the Hornets, coach Dunn’s reaction when asked if Keyshawn is a “Miami guy”, and even finding out that Dunn himself was recruited by Miami. We even discuss which wide receiver in Miami Hurricanes history Keyshawn compares to...sit back and enjoy.

David Dunn interview-Feb 2020.mp3

Head football coach David Dunn and Keyshawn Smith pictured at Lincoln High in San Diego.
Prep Pigskin Report