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Keegan Smith will take his championship-caliber attitude with him to Central Michigan.

Smith, a 6-foot-3, 315-pound guard/tackle, played in four state championship games while anchoring Jackson Lumen Christi’s offensive line, helping his team win three straight Division 6 state championships (2016-18), then advancing to Ford Field to play for the title again this past November, falling to Pewamo-Westphalia in the Division 7 title game.

CMU’s offensive line was getting the job done for the majority of this season as well, a reason the Chippewas went from 1-11 in John Bonamego’s last year as head coach in 2018 to 8-4 (6-2 Mid-American Conference) this season to win the MAC West in Jim McElwain’s first season of guiding the Chips before a MAC championship game loss to Miami (Ohio).

So, why CMU?

“I’m thrilled, it’s a great opportunity, it’s a great group of kids and a great coach,” Smith said. “I took a visit there back in the fall (2018) when I went to a game, and I really didn’t like it as much as I do now. I really wasn’t sure that it was the opportunity that I wanted to take.”

But, Smith — a three-star lineman who is No. 44 on The Detroit News Blue Chip list — took that visit under the old coaching staff. He said the situation changed a few months later with McElwain hired in early December.

“I got my offer in January or February, and I really didn’t think much about it until about March because I got a lot of offers and was narrowing it down,” Smith said. “I took my official visit in July, and when I went there I 100% knew that was my home. I just loved it there.

“I was entertained, just impressed with how much involvement I had with the coaches, the camaraderie, and everybody felt normal. I was just comfortable in the situation I was in.”

Smith, a first-team all-state (Division 7-8) selection by The News, loves how the coaching staff is upbeat and confident.

“Since Day 1 they’ve been talking about just turning their people into champions, telling them they just had a bad year (in 2018),” Smith said. “He brought in a great coaching staff, the offensive line coach, Coach (Mike) Cummings gets into people’s business 24/7, just getting on them, and has helped turn the offense around.

"Coach (Charlie) Frye (offensive coordinator) is a great guy too, and they are all doing a great job trying to help Central have a new state of mind, trying to get them be No. 1 like they should be.”

While Smith has played hockey in past winters for Lumen Christi, he’s getting physically ready to play football, planning to arrive in Mount Pleasant in June.

“My footwork has taken a huge improvement from last year to this year,” Smith said.

CMU’s 20-member class also included three-star defensive back Daemon Hill from Florida, who had multiple Power Five offers (Kansas State, Miami, Iowa State, Louisville, Illinois); three-star running back Myles Bailey from New Jersey, who had offers from Minnesota, Virginia Tech and Syracuse; along with tight end Davis Heinzen, who was considered to be the 16th-best player in Wisconsin by the 247Sports Composite.

In addition to Smith, other players from the state of Michigan include Bloomfield Hills receiver Alec Ward, a first-team All-North selection by The News and Parma Western quarterback Tyler Pape.

david.goricki@detroitnews.com

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