About seven months ago, running back Deion Smith was right there in the front row in Colorado’s team meeting room when newly arrived head coach Deion Sanders gave his now-famous speech about overhauling the listless Buffs football program with dozens and dozens of new transfers.

“I never really knew much about the university or the church. ... I never knew much about Provo. So I took the visit and it was great, honestly. Once I got here everything was exactly what coaches said it would be. I just felt like this was the perfect place for me.” — new BYU running back Deion Smith

“I’m bringing my own luggage with me, and it’s Louis (Vuitton), OK,” the Pro Football Hall of Famer, who now prefers to be called “Coach Prime,” said in a flashy video-recorded appearance that almost immediately went viral.

Smith, who had been the Buffaloes’ leading rusher in 2022 with 83 carries for 393 yards and two touchdowns, didn’t immediately decide to leave the program as a graduate transfer at that moment, but the seeds were certainly planted.

Four months later, in April, after seeing dozens of his former teammates pushed out of the program by the flamboyant Sanders and his new approach, the 6-foot, 190-pound Smith decided to hit the portal as well. He wasn’t shown the door, as so many other CU players were, and he was welcome to stay, he says, but the “itch” was still there to see what else was out there for his final season of college football.

“Based on the trajectory of how things were going, I just felt like I wanted a little bit more consistency, because the program had been in a rebuild phase every year,” Smith said Tuesday after BYU’s first fall camp practice. “I needed something a little bit more solidified.”

Smith, who grew up in Houston, knew “a little” about BYU before he signed with Colorado in 2018, but he got to know more about the Cougars by watching their games from hotel rooms the night before playing games for the Buffs.

So when BYU running backs coach Harvey Unga and offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick reached out once he was in the portal, he had some familiarity with the program and what the Cougars like to do on offense.

BYU’s 26-17 win over Utah in September 2021 especially stood out because Smith had been “recruited heavily” by the Utes out of the Houston area and “almost flipped to them” late in the process before sticking with his commitment to Colorado because of his fondness for its running backs coach at the time.

“BYU was the first school to reach out to me, in fact,” Smith said. “Basically, they just told me to do my homework on BYU, then come for a visit and see for myself.”

Smith made the visit in early May, and committed to BYU on May 12 over interest from Houston, Cal and Florida International, among others.

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“I never really knew much about the university or (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors BYU), never knew much about Provo,” Smith said. “So I took the visit and it was great, honestly. Once I got here everything was exactly what coaches said it would be. I just felt like this was the perfect place for me.”

BYU announced Smith’s signing on May 26, adding the scatback to a talented running backs room that has lost Chris Brooks to an NFL tryout and quarterback-turned-running back Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters for reasons coach Kalani Sitake would not address Tuesday.

Sitake confirmed Maiava-Peters’ departure from the program Tuesday, while also heaping praise on Smith and another addition from the transfer portal to the RBs room, former Louisville and UNLV rusher Aidan Robbins.

“He is running really well. I like his size. Look how big he is,” Sitake said of Robbins. “It is going to be nice to get him to complement the other running backs that are there. I feel like it is a really good group. Harvey and A Rod have done a great job getting that group full of talent and full of skill. It is going to be a lot of fun.”

Returners Miles Davis, Hinckley Ropati and Morgan Pyper are joined by Robbins, Smith, freshman LJ Martin and returned missionary Nukuluve Helu in giving BYU “probably the deepest running backs room BYU has ever seen,” Robbins told BYUtv Tuesday.

“Honestly, I couldn’t be happier to be in blue,” said Smith, who arrived in Provo in early June and is living alone in a place near LaVell Edwards Stadium. “I am surrounded by great people, great teammates, with a real family atmosphere. I wish I had come here sooner.”

Smith said the offensive players went on a retreat to St. George not long after he arrived in June and he was immediately welcomed in.

“We did some silly stuff like a talent show and things like that, just to get familiar with each other,” he said. “It was great. I really enjoyed it.”

It was a lot different than what went on that December day in Boulder when Coach Prime’s arrival was trumpeted far and wide, but said he’s ready for a different type of adventure — at least for a year.

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He earned a degree in journalism with a minor in ethnic studies and leadership at Colorado and was working on another degree in strategic communication design when he decided to make the move. 

Technically, he could try to get an additional year of eligibility, but he’s fairly certain that he won’t ask for it. 

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“I plan on this being my last season of college football,” he said. “I will play this year and then try for the NFL. My dreams and aspirations have always been to play in the NFL.”

Having caught 20 passes for 133 yards at Colorado in addition to totaling 159 carries for 653 yards in 34 career games, Smith believes he brings a different dimension to BYU’s running backs group. He also has experience returning kickoff and punts.

“Honestly, I feel like my skillset is unique. Those guys (in BYU’s room) are all great at the things that they do,” he said. “But I feel like I offer a different edge. I am more valuable in the pass game. So I just feel like with my unique capabilities I am carving myself a role within this offense and within this room.”

A room very different from that one in Boulder.

Colorado running back Deion Smith looks for a lane during game Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022, against Arizona State in Boulder, Colo. Smith transferred to BYU in the offseason. | David Zalubowski, Associated Press
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