UNION — Union County High School quarterback Keiston Smith capped off a phenomenal year with an appearance in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas at Gibbs Stadium this past weekend.
The senior signal caller, who shared time on the field with Hilton Head’s Michael Julian, didn’t take as many snaps as expected since his counterpart found an early rhythm. Nevertheless, Smith’s disposition after Saturday’s game was positive.
“It wasn’t my best game but that’s not the most important thing,” said Smith. “All the money that was raised went to the kids. To be a part of that was just a blessing.”
Established in 1937, the Shrine Bowl is the premier all-star game in showcasing the best players from both North Carolina and South Carolina. However, the game is always secondary to the great efforts made by the Shriners across both states to raise money and awareness for the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Smith and the rest of the South Carolina team joined the North squad a week before the game to visit the Shriners Hospital in Greenville.
“We talked to some of the kids and played with them,” Smith said. “It was touching.”
Smith added that on Wednesday, the teams attended a service at Spartanburg First Baptist Church to hear former Byrnes and Clemson quarterback Willy Corn speak. Later in the week, South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier and Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney addressed the players at the Shrine Bowl luncheon.
While Smith is a fan of Spurrier’s Gamecocks, Swinney’s speech was the one that resonated with him.
“Dabo talked about how nothing is gonna be easy,” Smith recalled. “He said you’re gonna have to work for the things you want and to always be prepared for when they call your number. He wanted us to understand that football is not going to last forever so you’ve got to have something else going for you.”
As of now, Smith — the SCVarsity.com Player of the Year — is uncommitted to a university, although he said that playing at either Clemson or USC would be ideal.
“I’ve had some offers from smaller schools in Tennessee and North Carolina but I’d like to go to one of the in-state universities. It would be good to be able to stay within the area and I met a few kids that were already committed to Clemson and Carolina. Two of the ones going to Clemson are wide receivers so it would be good if that worked out. I’m just not focused on any one school right yet.”
Smith said he connected with several of the players on the South Carolina team throughout the week of the Shrine Bowl including Lee Wright from York and Sabian Jefferson from South Florence. His roommate at the Marriott was a lineman from Timberland whose name Smith couldn’t recall.
“Because we just called everybody by the town they were from,” Smith explained with a laugh.
He’s ready for the next chapter but Smith said he will always remember his days as a Yellow Jacket with pride.
“I’m going to miss all the love you receive from the community,” said Smith. “And just going out playing every Friday night with my boys — the same ones I grew up playing with, that’s what I’ll miss the most. It’s a season I never thought I’d have and one I’ll never forget.”
As a senior, Smith racked up over 5,500 yards of total offense and accounted for 63 passing and rushing touchdowns, breaking a state record while leading Union County to a State Championship appearance.
The previous record of 57 touchdowns in a season was held by Bluffton’s C.J. Frazier. Smith broke the mark with a six-touchdown performance at A.C. Flora in the quarterfinals of the playoffs.