UNION — Union County High School football standouts Keiston Smith and Victor Ruth will continue their careers at one of the most elite junior colleges in the country.
The duo recently accepted full scholarships to Hutchinson Community College, a two-year program located in Hutchinson, Kan., that produced a total of 20 Division I signees from the 2012 class, nine of which joined BCS programs.
Ruth, a 5-foot-9, 174-pound wide receiver, has the ability to extend the field and make defenses more vulnerable to short and intermediate shots over the middle. He was an invaluable asset to Union County’s offense and finished the season with 84 catches for 1,420 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“I think I’ll be able to help Hutchinson with my speed and my ability to catch the ball and get away from defenders,” said Ruth. “It will be good that me and Keiston are going to be there together because we’ve already built up chemistry. We’ve been playing ball together since way back in elementary so we’ll be a step ahead of everybody.”
Smith is a Shrine Bowl quarterback who was also named the 2012 Statewide Player of the Year and SCVarsity.com Player of the Year. He’s a dual threat quarterback who thrived under the tutelage of former South Carolina quarterback and first-year Union County Head Coach Steve Taneyhill.
Both Smith and Ruth were key variables whose production in 2012 helped Union County to a State Championship appearance.
Ruth said he’d known for a while that he was academically ineligible to attend a Division I university so when he learned he’d received an offer to play in Kansas for two years, he was grateful for the opportunity.
“About two weeks ago I was on the way to Spartanburg with my mom when Mr. Lyles (principal of UCHS) called saying that Hutchinson had offered me a full ride,” Ruth explained.
“My goal for this season is get my GPA up,” he added. “I’m not too worried about the on-field stuff, just getting my GPA up so I can transfer to a D1 school — hopefully back over this way at either South Carolina or Clemson. A lot of teams already know about me but the problem is my grades. They want to see if I can keep those up.”
Smith, on the other hand, maintains a 3.5 GPA and chose Hutchinson primarily for the exposure the school offers. In six seasons, the program has produced 52 Division I players, including 24 who entered into BCS programs. A total of 108 players have signed with four-year programs under Hutchinson Head Coach Rion Rhoades.
Union County’s signal caller plans to attend Hutchinson for a semester (one football season) to raise his stock among college recruiters.
“I waited around trying to get that one offer,” said Smith. “All these coaches would come talk to me but they would never offer. I think it’s because my junior year wasn’t what it should have been. So I didn’t have the offer I wanted when Hutchinson found out about me and said they really wanted me. That made me feel good because I know it’s a good program that sends a lot of players to D1 schools every year.”
In his senior year at UCHS, Smith racked up 4,604 passing yards and 42 touchdowns while rushing for 1,156 yards and 21 touchdowns. In the state championship, he threw for 264 yards and rushed for 102 more, scoring two touchdowns from the ground and two from the air.
“The offense they run at Hutchinson is the spread just like Union County’s,” said Smith. “And they’re looking for a dual threat quarterback — a pocket passer that can also help with the running game. The coach says that if I come and play hard I could be a freshman standout so that’s what I’m planning to do.”