Imagine you are Reggie Smith Jr., star athlete in football and baseball at Montclair Prep. Imagine you're thinking back on your three seasons on the Mounties' football team, during which you were selected All-Alpha League three times and All-Southern Section twice.
Imagine, then, your reaction when you're told you can play in the Daily News all-star football game--but only if you can make the team as an alternate.
"I almost took it as a slap in the face," Smith said.
As an alternate, Smith (5-8, 180) had to prove himself as a defensive back in the first two days of practice. If not, he could have been cut.
So Smith went to the practice sessions with a purpose.
"I felt if I played like I could and hit like I could, I could make the team," he said.
Smith not only made the team, he earned a starting spot for the East in Friday's 7:30 p.m. game against the West at Pierce College.
Alemany Coach Enrique Lopez, who is handling the defense for the East team, said he didn't know much about Smith at the start of practice.
"The other kids had proven themselves," Lopez said. "I wanted to see him in action. And I'll tell you, he's a great athlete."
Smith said that being selected as an alternate lit a fire in him. "Most definitely," he said. "It was the biggest incentive."
When practice began, one player called Smith, "Hitman," a nickname he picked up for his aggressive style on the football field.
Lopez said that Smith has been among the most impressive players in practice. "He's got a lot of ability and he's a great kid to have around," Lopez added.
The defensive backs who came to the East practices with guaranteed spots were Alemany's Travis Bargeman, Hart's Cedric Ingram, Canyon's Derek Rusk and Jay Carballo of St. Francis.
"I always thought I was one of the best defensive backs in the area," Smith said. "I felt I was as good as anybody."
Smith gives a lot of credit to his high school coach, John Hazelton, who is now a volunteer assistant at USC. This past football season, Hazelton coached the Mounties to the Inland Conference championship final. Montclair Prep lost to Tehachapi, 17-7.
Smith admitted that coming from a smaller school helped form the attitude in some people that he had to prove himself.
"You have to expect it," he said. "Especially with a lot of guys coming from 4-A schools. So making the team is good for the school."
Smith said he is undecided as to his future. As for any scholarship offers, he said, "I'd rather not say right now."
He did say, however, that he'd like to play both football and baseball at whatever college he attends. This past baseball season, Smith earned All-Southern Section honors as Montclair Prep won the league title.
As for Friday's game, Smith said, "I'm coming ready to play. And I do mean, ready to play."
That might be bad news for the West team.