EVANS, Ga. (WJBF) — Former Grovetown football star D’Ante Smith was recognized by the Columbia County Board of Education Tuesday night for making it to Super Bowl LVI in February as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Smith, a 6-5, 305 pound offensive tackle, was chosen by Cincinnati in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He suffered a knee injury in October 2021, but recovered in time to play in the final two games of the regular season and join the Bengals for their playoff run.

Smith was awarded a “Recognition of Achievement” during Tuesday night’s meeting by his former Grovetown principal Penny Jackson, now an Associate Superintendent of Schools for Columbia County. Afterward, he had a message for current student-athletes hoping to follow in his footsteps.

“It’s a long journey and, to all the student-athletes out there, you have to be persistent,” Smith said. “You have to work, because everything is not going to be perfect. There are going to be plenty of challenges in life and in sports. You’ve got to keep going, one day after the next, and keep improving. It’s going to break through.”

Smith has lived his message of persistence. Between Grovetown and the NFL, Smith played college football at East Carolina University, where he also persevered through injuries during his freshman and senior seasons.