WAUKESHA, Wis. (BVM) — Penn State has seen successful running backs Saquon Barkley, Miles Sanders and more recently Big Ten Freshman of the Year Nick Singleton take the field in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions will look to continue to build their arsenal of high-caliber running backs with the addition of Corey Smith, a four-star recruit and a top-20 running back in the Class of 2024.
Smith’s football journey began at a young age and with the help of his family and those around him, the sport quickly became a prominent part of his life.
“The main thing that sparked interest in football for me was when I was 3 and I would go outside and a lot of my neighbors would play a seven-on-seven game,” Smith said. “When I was old enough, I asked my mom if I could play.”
Smith’s eagerness to play football grew and thanks to a deal he made with his mom, Corrie Smith, he was able to take his first steps onto the gridiron.
“I told him, ‘If you grow your hair out you can play,’ because my fear was that there’s a little bald-headed kid with a big helmet on, beating his head around,” Corrie said. “He grew his hair out and the next summer he came to me and asked, ‘Are we doing football?’”
Both of them made their way to a football camp that was being held for inner-city kids and there, Corey knew he was going to enjoy football, but as he continued to play, he nearly lost his love for it.
“I used to play basketball and I felt like it was more enjoyable at times because I was learning and having fun at the same time,” Corey said.
Corey’s affair with basketball ended and he began to take football more seriously and made the varsity team as a freshman but received limited playing time. That changed quickly and he made the most of his opportunity as a sophomore, rushing for 1,130 yards on 96 carries with 20 total TDs and helping the Crusaders capture their fifth state championship.
“I’ve always wanted to play running back,” Corey said. “Ever since I was in the third grade I played running back, but before high school, I played everything, but the only position I ever wanted to play was running back.”
Corey has had plenty of help from his family and he’s also had help from one of Wisconsin’s best prep football coaches: Bill Young.
“He makes sure we’re disciplined and makes sure we’re doing the right things at the right time and just wants us to be good people,” Corey said.
Corey helped the Crusaders reach their ninth state title game the following year, but the bid to win back-to-back titles fell short in a 21-13 loss to the Columbus Cardinals. The defeat hurt, but he and his teammates are taking the loss and turning it into a positive heading into the 2023 season.
“I feel like it brought everyone closer and we’re putting everything else aside,” Corey said. “A lot of people think it comes easy and I feel like it was a wake-up call after we lost and it shows that not everything is handed to us. It’s brought us closer and we want to work hard.”
Corey rushed for 1,304 yards last season and proved to be the best running back in the state, but it hasn’t been the easiest path and he’s had to endure plenty of hardships which included losing John Crowley, his father.
“We’re avid spiritual people around here,” Corrie said. “I’m always talking to his dad one way or another and we wouldn’t have been on this journey without him.”
Corey’s athletic trek has been nothing short of remarkable and he’ll continue to play for his family, but he’s also preparing to start his final prep season and for a future in the Big Ten. On May 9 he decided to commit to Penn State becoming one of Wisconsin’s best high school football players to leave the state.
— Corrie Smith (@_RBZinc) May 9, 2023
“The main reason I chose Penn State was that there’s a lot of caring people there,” Corey said. “I also feel like the academic scene is excellent and it’s definitely a school where football isn’t the main priority. It’s always good to have a Penn State degree.”
@CoreySmith_1 Senior year Loading…I’m about to do some major reflection!! Enjoy the moments! Momma♉️ Raging Blessings All Football Season Senior Year, here we come!
— Corrie Smith (@_RBZinc) May 29, 2023
Corey chose to join the Nittany Lions over programs like Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Tennessee and others and seeing offers like that roll in was special. It’s motivated him to become a great football player and now he’ll have the opportunity to provide motivation to up-and-coming football players.
“Always be you and never compare yourself to anyone else,” Corey said. “Do good in school and it can definitely hold you back if you don’t and if you’re a good student, things will go a lot smoother if you take your education seriously.”
There are sure to be plenty of obstacles ahead for Corey when it comes to an athletic career, but he has a solid family foundation and he’ll do his best to succeed in the sport that has impacted his life significantly.
“The game is like a family versus a family,” Corey said. “We’re all competing for something, but at the end of the day we’re all brothers and we all love each other, win or lose. Everyone comes together as one and everyone gets the best out of each other and the game has really made me feel special.”