BRADENTON -- Two years ago, Willie Smith was all about basketball.
Now it appears his path to a higher education will run through a football field.
A defensive back at Manatee, Smith has verbally committed to Florida International University.
Smith is the third member of Manatee's team to commit,
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joining defensive end Blake Keller (UCF) and quarterback Cord Sandberg (Mississippi State).
"It's the craziest thing ever," Smith said of his committing as a football player. "But it's the best thing."
Smith's interest in football was stoked by Manatee assistant Rod Frazier, who talked him about playing and what could happen if he stuck with it.
So far, it's all been good.
Smith nabbed a team-high five interceptions last season, including one in the Class 7A state final, and was of Manatee's steadiest performers in the postseason. He recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown against Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer in the state semifinal.
Smith has two interceptions this season.
Smith has had his share of college suitors, and he went to camp at FIU over the summer and took a tour of the campus.
"I liked the campus and I liked the coaches," he said, adding he will play cornerback. "Hopefully, I'll get a chance to get some early playing time."
While Smith is pleased with FIU, he still plans on taking trips to North Dakota State and Western Michigan prior to signing a letter of intent in February.
But when National Signing Day comes around, Smith sounds as if FIU will be his top choice.
"It felt like it was the best school and the best fit for the next four years of my life," he said, "and it's close to home. I know that's where I want to go, and now I just want to focus on football and schooling."