You know, for someone who was accused of doing obscene things to his old boss on the recruiting trail with a whiteboard, Kirby Smart sure played things above board when it came to offering Maurice Smith a chance to play in Athens as a graduate transfer from Alabama.
TRO: Given that great experience, what was the reason for wanting one more stop before your college career ended?
Smith: I saw it an opportunity when coach Smart and coach Tucker told the team they were about to leave and go to Georgia. I had never received an offer from them — it was one of the few schools who never offered me. Once coach Smart told me, I wanted to make the move and transition…
TRO: Did coach Smart (Alabama defensive coordinator) or coach Tucker (Alabama defensive backs coach) let you know before they took their jobs with Georgia that they may be moving, and that there would be interest in bringing you along if they did move?
Smith: Honestly, it sounds funny, but we never even spoke about it. My relationship with coach Smart at ‘Bama was not what it could have been — it was not that strong or close. He recruited me out of high school, but once I was there a couple of things happened and went the route they did just because of him. It wasn’t like I didn’t like him or anything like that. I just didn’t understand what was going on.
Before the National Title game, we knew he was leaving, but he never spoke about it. Obviously, there were the little things: “You do what you do, and you will have success”. That kind of thing. But in terms of a conversation about me following him, that never crossed our minds.
The funny thing is, before the National Championship, once they both knew they were leaving, I kind of knew that we would end up crossing paths, but I never thought it would be in college. Georgia wasn’t even my first choice!
I was actually interested in a couple of other schools. One day my mom came up to me and was like “what would you think about going to Georgia?” And I was like “I dunno”. I wasn’t too fond of it: they hadn’t recruited me; I hadn’t been; I didn’t have a close relationship with coach Smart. I ended up speaking with coach Tucker, he had been one of my favorite defensive backs coaches. Once that happened, I thought about doing it and took a visit. After that it took off from there.
That’s about as straight up as it gets. Not that there weren’t a few assholes involved in the story. It’s just that all of them were located in Tuscaloosa.
TRO: Walk us through your transfer process?
Smith: Well, to start, I remember it was after the spring game — a couple of weeks after — I had ongoing thoughts about maybe I should explore different options. That’s what I ended up doing.
I went into coach Saban’s office and told him I wanted to look into other schools. He was like “what do you mean? Transfer?” I told him no, I just wanted to look at options. He didn’t take that lightly; he didn’t know my motive. He kind of went into tank mode, in the sense that he was asking the staff “why is Mo trying to leave?”
I never told anyone I wanted to leave, just that I wanted to explore options. I forget what it’s called, but I was trying to get the release so that I could speak to schools or something like that. That’s when it went south real quick. I was kind of surprised. I didn’t know where the madness or confusion had come from, because I hadn’t asked for a transfer.
The practices went on, and next thing I know things went even more south: coach Saban is telling me I’m not able to come into the facility or workout with the team if I’m going to leave.
Once that happened, things got real ugly.
And that was a week before he even thought about transferring to Georgia. Nice.