It is the strangest story, the kind that, fittingly, often comes with the postscript "only in Texas." A 22-year-old man spends four years pulling out all the stops to try and walk on to any freshman high school football team that would take him, only to vanish at each school almost as soon as he got there. The only existing criminal charges against him are related to stealing a snare drum from a middle school and failing to appear in court.
Now, perhaps more than anything else, the coaches he tried to dupe just want to understand what he was trying to achieve.
As artfully investigated and reported by the Dallas Morning News, the case of Taylor Markeith Smith is a bit like a real life high school football version of "Catch Me if You Can." Since 2007, Smith has tried to walk on to an incredible 14 different Dallas-area high school football teams. At each turn, after gaining some level of access, he mysteriously disappeared before authorities could ascertain exactly who he was.
Using the aliases Markeith Smith, Iesis Smith and Rice Carter, the man who stands 6-foot-5 and has a mustache has tried to walk on to practices at Dallas (Texas) Richardson High, Dallas (Texas) Hillcrest, Dallas (Texas) Richardson Berkner, Lake Highlands, W.T. White and Molina. He tried South Oak Cliff, Garland, Duncanville and North Dallas. At one point he showed up at Seagoville and Sunset. In total, he has tried to play for every school in the entire University Interscholastic League District 9-5A.
At each turn, Smith has had a different tale of woe to explain why he was suddenly arriving on the scene like a preternatural body builder charged with changing the school's athletic fortunes. At Richardson, he told coaches that he moved to the district to live with relatives after his parents died in a trailer fire in Waxahachie. In 2009, he brought along a Dallas Independent School District caseworker to try and gain admittance to South Oak Cliff. A year later, he told Duncanville coaches that he was a transfer from Shreveport (La.) Evangel Christian Academy who needed a new start after his mother had been shot.
He even had someone posing as a caseworker call Sunset to say that Smith was a displaced student from Hurricane Katrina. Yet, none of the excuses stuck, and eventually Smith would disappear just as it seemed a coach or school official was about to identify him.
"To try and pull that so many different places, he's really searching for something," South Grand Prairie coach Brent Whitson told the Morning News. "Looking back on it you can see he was playing some kind of game. He was there because he didn't have to do anything real. There are no W2s in the ninth grade."
The issue, of course, is that Smith's attempts to play could put those he plays with in serious jeopardy. At 22, Smith is pretty well a fully grown man, one capable of seriously injuring 14-year-old teens.
At the end of the day, that's why the coaches who Smith has tried to take advantage of are determined to stop him. South Oak Cliff coach Kendall Miller -- who initially discovered Smith's true identity from his original DISD case file -- called the then-20-year-old and told him he would be arrested if he stepped foot on campus again, an action he now regrets because it has posed the best chance to arrest him.
Still, there remains a sad veneer over all of the proceedings that have followed in Smith's wake, with apparent indications that, more than anything else, what Smith needs is clinical help.
"Looking back on it, and I always told the guys at lunch, I felt sorry for the kid, the man, whoever he is," Whitson said. "It's obvious he doesn't fit someplace else that maybe he should. And so he found refuge in high school sports, high school environments."