Former Ohio State quarterbacks Troy Smith and Braxton Miller reportedly head a group that is interested in purchasing the former site of Urbana University with the idea of converting it into a prep school, similar to that IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
“My uncle, Paul, reached out to me about the acquisition with the campus shutting down,” Miller told Marcus Hartman of the Springfield News-Sun. “It was a great opportunity to make my dream come true to have a school in the Midwest, do something big in the Midwest, to bring sports to the Midwest in that format.”
The school, which would be called Urbana Prep and Sports Institute, would replace Urbana University, which shutdown last year due to challenges associated with the coronavirus pandemic. The campus covers more than 50,000 square acres and features 22 buildings, including basketball, football and baseball stadiums.
Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, and Miller, a two-time winner of the Chicago Tribune's Silver Football, both spent different parts of their childhood in Springfield, Ohio, which is a 15-minute drive down State Route 72 from Urbana. Now they're trying to give back to kids in the area.
"I think sports in its entirety, when you are genuine and real behind it, it takes care of itself, but we want to dig a little bit deeper into the character issues, the things that help people understand mental health, the ins-and-outs there," Smith said. "It’s okay for you to speak your mind and to be the specific athlete that you want to be or it doesn’t even have to be sports. That’s my reason of being here.”
The hope is to following the blueprint set forth by IMG Academy, which opened as a tennis academy in 1979 but has since produced a number of top-rated prospects in football and basketball, among other sports.
It's even become a pipeline for Ohio State in recent years, with the Buckeyes signing four-star offensive guard Tyler Gerald and four-star defensive tackle Malik Barrow in 2016, four-star cornerback Marcus Williamson and four-star safety Isaiah Pryor in 2017, five-star defensive tackle Taron Vincent in 2018 and four-star cornerback Lejond Cavazos in 2020.
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