ATLANTA -- DeAndre Smelter had plenty of options when he graduated from Tattnall Square.
He could have chosen to play college football; he had a number of offers. He could have chosen to play college baseball; he had a number of offers there, too. He also had the opportunity to play professional baseball and spend a few years in towns like Abilene and Aberdeen.
“Coming out of high school, my heart was set on baseball,” Smelter said.
Smelter took the option that worked best for him. He saw his future in baseball, so he signed with Georgia Tech, with the expectation that a professional contract would be waiting for him in three years.
That didn’t work out. In 2011, Smelter started 15 games in the outfield and allowed just one run in 17-1/3 innings as a pitcher. But in 2012, he injured his shoulder and was used primarily as a pinch runner. In 2013, he pitched 16-2/3 innings of relief and struck out 14 batters, but he had decided to try his hand at football.
Smelter impressed head coach Paul Johnson during the 2013 spring game and earned significant playing time that fall. He played in all 13 games and started seven. He led wide receivers with 21 catches and had a team-leading four touchdown receptions.
Now, he has gone from being a baseball prospect (he was drafted by the Minnesota Twins) to a football prospect, with the possibility that he could be drafted. Last spring, he decided to quit playing baseball and concentrate on his budding football career.
“Now that I’ve made my decision, I don’t regret it,” Smelter said. “It was a tough decision to walk away from a game I’ve been playing for so long. But when I made the decision, I didn’t have any regrets.”
Last season, Smelter became the go-to receiver for quarterback Vad Lee, who has since moved on to James Madison, happy to be running something other than the option. Smelter has been hard at work with new quarterback Justin Thomas to develop the same sort of rapport.
“Me and Justin have been putting in work at getting better at the little things that could help us win games,” Smelter said. “We’ve worked hard all summer long to get ready for the fall.”
Smelter has also spent time with No. 2 quarterback Tim Byerly. They spent time working on routes, causing Smelter to remark, “He’s got a great arm, too.”
Smelter averaged 16.4 yards per catch as a junior. On three occasions he had three receptions, and against Virginia Tech he had 76 receiving yards. His longest catch was a 42-yarder against Pittsburgh.