There has to be a ceiling.
At some point, DeAndre Smelter will peak as an athlete. Sooner or later, the Tattnall Square junior will max out his abilities.
Some opposing football coaches might have hoped it would happen this year. They didn’t get their wish.
Smelter, the 2008 Telegraph Independent Schools Player of the Year, improved on an already impressive sophomore season to lead Tattnall to the GISA Class AAA semifinals. He was an integral piece of a Tattnall team that won 28 straight games, a streak that ended against Deerfield-Windsor in the semifinals.
Smelter’s recognition as the Telegraph’s Independent Schools Player of the Year follows honors as the Telegraph’s basketball and baseball player of the year, giving him all three honors currently. Smelter was also the Telegraph’s overall top athlete last year.
“We’ve seen some amazing athletes around here in the GISA over the years,” Stratford head coach Rodney Collins said earlier this year. “But DeAndre has as much talent as anyone I’ve seen in this league.”
Smelter’s numbers rose this year as most teams geared their gameplan to stopping the Trojans’ weapon. Tattnall head coach Barney Hester lined Smelter up at receiver, running back and even at quarterback while always searching for an advantageous matchup.
Smelter’s movement throughout the offense accounts for his hodgepodge of statistics. He rushed for 932 yards and nine touchdowns on 85 carries (11 yards per carry). He caught 29 passes for 569 yards and six touchdowns (19.6 yards per catch). He also threw a touchdown pass.
As a safety, Smelter followed up a 10-interception season with another six interceptions, and that came with opposing coaches becoming more aware of his playmaking capabilities. Fellow safety Jordan Brooks benefitted greatly from this by intercepting a GISA-high nine passes. Smelter returned two of those interceptions for touchdowns. He finished with 70 tackles, 14 pass breakups and three forced fumbles.
“You always have to find out where he is on the field,” Collins said. “He is dangerous on both sides of the ball, so you have to also find him.”
Smelter remained equally dangerous in the return game. Most teams tried to kick the ball away him, but Smelter still returned four punts for an average of 33.8 yards and four kickoffs for an average of 47.8 yards and one touchdown. For the season, Smelter accounted for 1,984 all-purpose yards and 19 touchdowns. He averaged 15.3 yards every time he touched the ball.
“I’ll say I feel pretty good every times DeAndre has the ball in his hands,” Hester said. “Imagine what his numbers would be if he had 200-250 carries for the season. But that isn’t what our offense is about. DeAndre sacrifices individual numbers for the team. He’s one of the best team players we’ve had.” Smelter has consistently maintained he doesn’t know which sport he will pursue at the next level. Most believe he has the potential to be a high draft pick in baseball — he was throwing in the upper 90s as a sophomore. But he has also made unofficial football visits to Georgia and Georgia Tech. ESPN.com lists him on a watch list for the top 150 football players in the country.