Smith, a grad transfer receiver from Virginia Tech, has left the team and decided to step away from football, he said in a statement Saturday. He was not present at Wednesday’s spring practice because of a personal matter, the team said. He enrolled in January with one season of eligibility remaining.
“After countless hours of prayer and thought, I believe my time playing this game has passed,” Smith’s statement read. “What is more important to me now is my future after football, and to achieve that, I must focus on my mental and physical health, which has taken a great toll throughout the years.”
Notre Dame added Smith in December to bring a veteran with a track record of production into a talented but largely unproven receiver unit. Smith’s 674 yards at Virginia Tech in 2022 are more than nine of the Irish’s 10 other scholarship receivers have amassed in their careers. Prior to spring practice, he was one of two seniors or grad students in the receiver room, which has six players with three or four years of eligibility left.
Smith chose Notre Dame over UCLA as a transfer. The 2023 season was set to be his sixth in college football. He played his first five years at Virginia Tech, beginning as a walk-on freshman in 2018 and ending as a starter and team captain. He was originally committed to Wake Forest as a scholarship player and part of the same Demon Deacons recruiting class as Hartman.
“Me and Sam, we were planning on being freshman roommates,” Smith said.
Those plans didn’t work out at Wake Forest. Their time as a quarterback-receiver duo at Notre Dame won’t go beyond a few spring practices and winter throwing sessions.
Notre Dame has 10 scholarship receivers without Smith, who was working at boundary and field receiver this spring. The lone grad student is sixth-year player Matt Salerno. Senior Chris Tyree moved from running back to slot receiver at the start of spring practice.
The Irish also have junior Lorenzo Styles, junior Deion Colzie, junior Jayden Thomas and sophomore Tobias Merriweather as returners from 2022. They have four freshmen: Rico Flores Jr., Jaden Greathouse, Braylon James and another Kaleb Smith (who goes by KK). The younger Smith was the only freshman receiver who did not enroll early.
Merriweather, Thomas and Colzie were the first-team receivers in Wednesday’s practice, which was fully open to reporters.
Notre Dame has 86 scholarship players after Smith’s departure.
The 6-foot-2, 222-pound Smith had 74 catches for 1,143 yards and 7 touchdowns during his Virginia Tech career.