There was a son of a Husker legend in Memorial Stadium competing in Friday Night Lights for the second year in a row. One of the 2021 camps saw 2024 quarterback Dylan Raiola put on a show, throwing lasers all over the field. This year the Huskers had 2024 wide receiver Keelan Smith, son of legendary defender Neil Smith, on campus taking part in the action.
The wide receiver (6-3, 200) attends Liberty North High School in Kansas City and made his way to Lincoln for the first Friday Night Lights camp this summer. Keelan made some nice plays during the game and he felt his performance was strong. Outside of his camp performance, it was nice for Keelan to back in Memorial Stadium. That always gives him a good feeling.
“It’s great. Instantly when I was there I felt like I was at home in a way. It felt good to be there. They were all welcoming to me. They all like loved having me there. here. At camp yesterday, it was just nice. They’re asking me how football and stuff is going but also how life was going. It was kind of more than football sometimes just ask how I’m doing.”
He enjoyed the competition with the other campers and got to meet some of the Nebraska coaches he hadn’t met yet. Among those coachers were coach Scott Frost and wide receivers coach Mickey Joseph. It was Joseph that made a big impression on the Husker legacy.
“He’s a great coach,” Keelan said. “He’s probably one of the best receiver coaches I’ve ever met. He’s really chill. But he’s always there to help you improve. Yeah, he’s just a great guy. You can have a conversation with him and he’s asking about my family. It’s more than football with him sometimes, which is nice.”
Keelan liked that Nebraska’s coaching staff kept things loose and fun. They were joking with him about comparisons to his dad, about how much Neil could bench press even as a freshman. Keelan fired back that he’s got a faster 40-yard dash than his dad. Those sorts of conversations only help to increase Keelan’s competitive fire.
Keelan is going to be busy this summer. Before attending Friday Night Lights, he attended Kansas State and Missouri’s camps. He will also take part in Iowa State, Kansas and Oregon’s camp. It’s important to him to show his ability but also get to know the coaches better. Keelan has already taken visits to these schools so this time it’s about working directly with the coaches. He’s also looking forward to seeing the energy of the camps and what it’s like to compete against players from other areas of the country.
Keelan noted there is a value of these camps that most people don’t realize. The chance to be coached by college coaches is invaluable. While he’s busy working to improve his game Keelan has gotten some great advice from Neil.
“He basically just tells me go have fun, enjoy the moment,” Keelan said. “With all these coaches, I’m gonna be talking to learn as much as I can. Just compete with whatever I’m doing when I go to these camps. Just compete and meet new people. In the recruiting process he just told me to talk to as many coaches as I can. You can never ask too many questions. Just ask a lot of questions and have fun with it.”
Keelan doesn’t have any scholarship offers yet but there are a lot of coaches that have been interested in him. He wants to keep taking advantage of the invitations to work out and meet coaches to boost his stock. The playmaker also understands there is always room for improvement. He’s got some clear goals to help earn those scholarships and help his team in the fall.
“I want to be more versatile,” Keelan said. “Just be able to move to any position on the field instead of just wide receiver. Right now, I could play slot, I could play running back, tight end and I’ll possibly be playing defense this year. So, I’m just working on doing whatever I can to just help my team out. I want to be flexible for coaches. Getting stronger and getting faster than last year. Ultimately just trying to win state. We lost in a state championship last year, so we just want to win the whole thing this year.”
Greg is the Recruiting Analyst for Hail Varsity and has covered Husker athletics since 2013. He has always had a passion for sports while growing up in the Chicago area. As he got older and had to hang up his cleats and sneakers, he realized his passion for sports went beyond just watching and attending games. He has covered many events from the Rose Bowl to championship boxing matches. If he’s not talking sports, he’s hovering over his grill. He is married to an amazing woman, Kim, and they have a dog that barks when Greg yells at the TV during games.