Durham Smythe almost came to Texas. In fact, he was verbally committed to the University for the majority of 2012.
On Sunday night, the senior tight end will return to Darrell K. Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium. But this time, he’ll be playing in the blue and gold of Notre Dame instead of watching in burnt orange.
“It’s going to be special,” Smythe said. “Most of my friends went to [Texas] or [Texas] A&M. I have about 30 family members and friends coming to watch.”
Smythe grew up just 60 miles north of Austin and became a star at Belton High School where he was a three-year starter, a Class 5A All-State First Team honoree and a 2013 inductee onto the Belton Wall of Honor.
His recruitment was jump started when he attended Baylor’s junior day in January 2012. His father, Dr. Roy Smythe, played football for the Bears and was a member of the 1980 Southwest Conference champion team. Smythe grew up attending Baylor games with his family.
“We knew if he went to junior day at Baylor and didn’t commit, it would have a big impact,” Smythe’s high school head coach Rodney Southern said. “He kind of went from an unknown to a big time recruit overnight. After that weekend, he had about 17 offers the following Monday.”
One of those offers was from Mack Brown, and Smythe committed to the Longhorns in March 2012. But with all the questions regarding Brown’s status and the state of the coaching staff up in the air after the 2012 season, Smythe re-opened his recruitment.
Because Smythe was the No. 6 tight end in the nation according to ESPN, Southern said the phone was ringing before they even left Austin after the decommitment. Schools like Stanford, Ole Miss and Michigan were all expressing continued interest.
But Smythe always had an interest in the Fighting Irish, and shortly after his official visit in late January 2013 he signed a letter of intent to play for Notre Dame.
“Durham was a Notre Dame fan growing up, who knows why, so it wasn’t surprising,” Roy Smythe chuckled. “I always told him, ‘I’m not here to make the decision, I’m here as a resource.’ I definitely think he made the right decision for himself.”
Since moving to South Bend, Ind. Smythe has become one of the leaders for the Fighting Irish tight end crew. He’s an intelligent, talented athlete known for his sure hands and blocking proficiency.
As a tight end, Smythe said he strives to excel in all aspects of the game and he’s put in the work over the years to develop into a well-rounded football player.
In last year’s season opener against Texas, he notched a six-yard reception. The following game at Virginia, he caught a seven-yard touchdown pass.
Unfortunately, he suffered a MCL tear in that second game that sidelined him until the Fiesta Bowl game against Ohio State. While he was unable to compete, Smythe focused on improving his strength and knowledge of the game.
“It was tough for a while, but in the long run it was good for me,” Smythe said. “Even though I wasn’t on the field, I continued leading and fixed the mental side of my game. I worked hard in film sessions and I really learned the offense well.”
Despite going to school far away, Smythe’s family attends as many of his games as possible. But getting to watch him play on such a big stage so close to home is meaningful in a different way.
“We’ll be there, of course,” Roy Smythe said. “It’s really special. We’re excited to watch this big game between two great programs.”