ROCKFORD - Fletcher Smith will not only get to stay a Panther, but he and his family won't have to change school colors when getting new gear.
The Parkway senior will continue his education and football career at Ohio Dominican after signing his letter of intent with the NCAA Division II program on Wednesday. Both teams use black and gold in their color scheme.
"Really just felt like home," said Smith, who will major in exercise science. "Being in Columbus, where there's a lot of opportunities outside of football, and being able to play at the Division II level is something I wanted to do.
"It was toward the end of the season. I went on an official visit. Then they offered me at a game. As soon as I got there, I knew that's where I wanted to be."
The ODU Panthers, located in Columbus, is coming off a 4-7 season in 2023 with a Great Midwest Athletic Conference mark of 3-6 in Kelly Cummings' eighth season as head coach.
"They're very Ohio-oriented. They really only try to recruit Ohio guys, which is something I really like," said Smith. "(Cummings) has a military background and is pretty hard-working. That's where I know I will fit in."
Parkway had a tough road in 2023. Although winning just twice, the two wins - over a North Central team that finished with nine wins and a 35-23 victory over Midwest Athletic Conference foe St. Henry - allowed the Panthers to clinch a spot in the Division VI playoffs. Parkway lost 37-23 to Paint Valley in the opening round of the playoffs to finish 2-9 and 1-7 in the MAC.
In spite of the record, Smith had decent numbers, completing 55% (98-of-178) of his passes for 1,329 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. Smith also led the team with six rushing touchdowns in carrying the ball 83 times for 466 yards (5.6 yards per carry).
Smith feels the competition he played against in the MAC helped him get the chance to play on the college level.
"I feel like playing in the MAC here is like going up a level playing in the G-MAC," said Smith. "Competition is going to be similar (to) playing here in that type of level."