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Lawrence High tight end finds second love in tennis, but camaraderie calls him to football

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LAWRENCE, Kan. -- It's not a sport we typically see football's big guys enjoying.

One of Lawrence High's football stars has a second love, but it's not enough to replace football in his heart.

Lawrence tight end Bryce Smith played football as a freshman, but he gave up the game on the grid, in part, because he was too small for the sport.

He said that's about the time tennis became a passion of his, and he's been a member of the Chesty Lions' junior varsity tennis team for three seasons. Now, Smith's biggest tennis asset is hard to miss, especially after an offseason growth spurt saw him sprout in height to 6-foot-3.

"Being huge," Smith laughed, "it`s kind of hard to lob balls over me. That`s probably the strength of my tennis game."

Oddly enough, it's his size, in part, that brought him back to football as a senior.

"Tennis is all about you and your doubles partner. It`s not about the team at all. That was something I was really missing," Smith said Thursday.

Smith loves tennis, but he said he missed the team spirit that surrounds Lawrence football (6-0) and the sense of community that individual sports can't provide.

"There`s something special about team sports, especially football and the camaraderie. It`s on a different level than anything else you`ll do in high school," Smith told FOX4.

The Lions mostly use Smith as a blocking tight end, but they've thrown to him twice this season -- both of which he caught for touchdowns.

"When he told me he was coming out for football, I didn't believe him," said Jackson Dooley, Lawrence quarterback. "He`s a great team leader. He`s a great guy, enthusiastic all the time. That really helps in tennis, and now, here in football."

"When we first started in June, he really didn`t know what was going on with his game. We took him to a couple of team camps and let him get his feet wet. We`ve played him a lot this year, and he`s done a nice job," said Steve Rampy, second-year Lawrence head coach.

"It`s a cool story and all, but it`s all about this team. We`re going to continue to do special things," Smith said.

On Friday night, Lawrence is scheduled to play Olathe North (5-1) in a 7 p.m. kickoff.

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