Written by SportsDayDFW.com
Coaches puzzled by man who tried to play football for at least 14 Dallas-area high schools under 3 different names
He was born in 1989, this man in the mug shot with cut eyebrows, light stubble and buzzed black hair. He may be living in Duncanville, says a former landlord. He spends time in DeSoto, say those who recognize him from the picture. At 6 feet 5 inches and 245 pounds, he has been described as a Greek god, and has allegedly used the names Markeith Smith, Iesis Smith and Rice Carter.
He is a man who poses as a high school boy.
From 2007 to this fall, he's come to at least 14 area high schools, saying he is a freshman or sophomore who wants to join the football team.
"To try and pull that so many different places," South Grand Prairie coach Brent Whitson said, "he's really searching for something."
Like the names, the stories he told coaches would slightly change. The desire for sport didn't. Under any alias, he wanted to play football.
In September 2007, Markeith Smith came to a Richardson freshman football practice. He wore a T-shirt and shorts. Whitson, then the school's coach, met him, and right away, Markeith told him he could throw the ball.
Let me show you, he said.
Markeith took a drop step at the south 40-yard line and flung the ball through the air. Whitson watched, mesmerized, as it spiraled into the end zone, marveling that the passer hadn't even warmed up.
Soon after, Whitson said he consulted the counselors, figuring the kid was too good to be true. But everything checked out. Markeith Smith was an enrolled freshman at Richardson High School.
The man was 18 at the time.
Markeith Smith made the Richardson High freshman team in fall 2007. He had been through so much, or at least that's what he told coaches in the rare moments he opened up. His parents, he said, had died that summer in a trailer fire in Waxahachie. He had moved into the Richardson district with a relative.
"Right then, you want to help the kid," Whitson said.
Whitson said Markeith played in two or three games that fall as a wide receiver.
Jordan Booty played on the same team. He was 5-9 and 180 pounds and was known as one of the biggest ninth-graders in school. Then Markeith came along, 6-5 with a mustache.
Booty remembers him as much for his mouth as his size and athleticism. Markeith yapped at the entire team when he didn't get the pass.
"Then when he got the ball," Booty said, "he wouldn't make plays because he was still complaining about not getting the ball earlier."
Whitson said Markeith never caused trouble; he just didn't go to class. Markeith could be found loitering in the hallways or visiting the nurse. Booty said neither he nor his teammates saw him outside of school or football.
Whitson recalls academic ineligibility causing Markeith to leave. Booty remembers his exodus differently. Markeith played in a game on a Thursday and then didn't come to school the next day. He never returned.
"It was something about him," Booty said. "It wasn't right."
Markeith came to Dallas' Hillcrest High in spring 2008. He occasionally watched practices and lifted weights, saying week after week he was about to enroll. He may have participated in summer workouts with the 7-on-7 team. The 2008 edition of Dave Campbell's Texas Football Magazine lists Markeith Smith as a top sophomore, a safety who can run a 4.7 40-yard dash.
One night, Hillcrest coach Andy Todd remembers, Markeith called him at 1 a.m. Todd can't recall the details, only that Markeith sounded scared, like he needed someone to talk to.
"It seemed legit, it seemed real, it seemed genuine," Todd said, "but I could never get the information to sell me on it being legit.
"He was a pretty good actor."
When it came time to provide paperwork, Markeith vanished. In fall 2008, he appeared at Richardson Berkner at the start of two-a-days, carrying a birth certificate.
Football coach Jim Ledford said the certificate showed his age as 16, but then he took a closer look in his office. It appeared that the year had been whited out and reprinted. Neither he nor Berkner's principal had an opportunity to examine the situation in depth because Markeith ran off.
Before their discovery, he had played as scout team running back in one drill against defensive end Justin Yancey. Yancey pounded Markeith, separating Markeith's shoulder.
"He never came back," Ledford said. "He took all my pads and everything, and I never saw him since."
As Ledford and the other coaches would find out, Markeith had been to nearly every school in District 9-5A, a group including Richardson, Richardson Berkner, Lake Highlands, W.T. White and Molina, and then Hillcrest from outside of 9-5A.
"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."
The places he would go and lengths he would take had only begun.
Caseworker in tow
South Oak Cliff coach Kendall Miller, like everyone who encountered the 6-5 athlete, wanted to believe. Iesis Smith had arrived unannounced at an early fall 2009 practice. He was joined by a man Iesis called his caseworker, who had a DISD badge identifying him as Draper Earvin.
Iesis told Miller he was a freshman student at Townview Magnet school who lived in South Oak Cliff's district. He had a sad story to tell, too. His parents had been killed in a car accident, but he had survived, sitting in the backseat.
Iesis Smith went to Garland in 2009, and Duncanville and North Dallas in 2010. He told Duncanville coaches the car story but told North Dallas coaches he was a transfer from Evangel Christian in Louisiana and that his mom had been shot.
This fall, Rice Carter arrived at Seagoville and Sunset. He told the Townview story at Seagoville but had a caseworker call Sunset and explain that he had been displaced from Hurricane Katrina.
He never made it into any of these schools or practices, though he watched from the sidelines. As soon as someone became wise to the con or needed paperwork, he disappeared, leaving everyone who encountered him wanting to know, "Who was this guy?"
Miller found out at South Oak Cliff.
He demanded an ID number from Iesis, and Draper Earvin provided one. When Miller ran the number, the face on the computer screen matched Iesis' but his name was not Iesis. And he wasn't a freshman. He was a 20-year-old former Samuell student.
Miller called the impostor. I know your real name, he said. If you ever show up on campus again, you'll be arrested. The man hung up. Miller regrets the phone call, thinking the impostor could have been caught if he had come back.
When Rice Carter appeared at two Dallas schools this fall, Miller got a look at a photo taken by the Seagoville staff. Though blurry, he recognized the face. He said it was the same kid who came to his practice two years earlier: Iesis Smith, a.k.a. Markeith Smith.
Tracing his identity
The impostor's real name is Taylor Markeith Smith. He was born April 10, 1989, according to birth and DISD directory records and police documents. According to the DISD, he attended Samuell in the 2005-06 school year and withdrew from Roosevelt in 2007.
Samuell football coach Steve Pierce barely remembers Taylor Smith. He said he may have played in some sub-varsity games but routinely skipped school and practices.
A former student, who spoke on condition of anonymity, recalled Taylor Smith but knew little else about him. He had last seen him a year ago, playing basketball at Umphress Park. The student said he knew close friends of Taylor Smith and would track them down. He didn't return any more phone calls.
Pierce said counselors told him that Taylor Smith came back to Samuell sometime in the last couple of years, trying to find a spot there.
"What a way to live," Pierce said.
In 2007, Taylor Smith was charged with misdemeanor theft. According to a DISD police affidavit, he was accused of stealing a snare drum from Zumwalt Middle School. Court documents indicate he failed to appear in court, and the case was never resolved. He is wanted for bond forfeiture/theft.
When shown a copy of Taylor Smith's Dallas County Sheriff's Department mug shot, several coaches who encountered Markeith and Iesis said it was definitely the same person.
Section 37.10 of the Texas Penal Code states that a person commits a third-degree felony offense if he "knowingly makes false entry in, or false alteration of, a governmental record," and if he "makes, presents, or uses any record, document, or thing with knowledge of its falsity and with intent that it be taken as a genuine governmental record."
Whitson and Miller were the only two coaches who vividly remembered encounters with Draper Earvin, Smith's guardian figure. When shown a copy of Earvin's Dallas sheriff's office mug shot, they said he was the person who came to their schools with Smith.
Earvin's driver's license and police records list his residence at Gossage Lane, one street over from Smith's last listed residence. According to DISD, he has never worked for the school district. Earvin has been convicted of robbery, check forgery and unlawfully carrying a handgun. He is wanted on a charge of failing to pay child support.
What perplexes the coaches now is not so much the who but the why. Why would anyone try to re-enroll in high school as an adult in so many places, so many times?
When Taylor Smith went to Molina, trying to get on the team in 2008, he gave coach Charles DeVille his DISD identification number and introduced himself by his real name. DeVille could see that Taylor Smith had talent. DeVille told him that he should get his GED and then find a junior college.
He never saw or heard from Smith again.
Those actions fit the man Whitson knew for several weeks. Whitson said Markeith Smith never wanted to work hard. He just wanted to escape through play, to belong somewhere.
"Looking back on it you can see he was playing some kind of game," Whitson said. "He was there because he didn't have to do anything real. There are no W2s in the ninth grade."
A lingering ‘why?'
Taylor Smith's last known address is on Jill Lane in Pleasant Grove. It appears in his DISD directory information and on his court records.
No one answers the door there. No one leaves or comes during several hours of waiting over several days. Neighbors say they have met him but know nothing about him. The landlord says he has moved.
A phone number Rice Carter left on his physical exam form at Seagoville is out of service, along with several phone numbers listed for a woman who lived in the Jill Lane house with Taylor Smith.
Draper Earvin, who did not respond to email and whose listed phone numbers were out of service, started businesses called Rhino Roofing & Remodeling and Rhino Auto Sales and Investments in late August, according to Dallas County Clerk documents. He lists the businesses' addresses on DeSoto's Hampton Road.
In DeSoto, convenience store clerks and barbershop patrons recognize the face of Taylor Smith. One woman says he mills about the area without anything to do. He often hangs out at the Brookhollow Apartments, she says.
An employee who has seen him multiple times at Brookhollow says he is boisterous, that you'll hear him long before you see him. She points toward a block of apartments tucked away in the complex's southwest corner where he stays but doesn't live. She saw him an hour or two ago.
The woman warns not to approach him or that area without someone else. A child was killed at Brookhollow in April. The neighborhood is known as a drug hotbed. Hanging out there as an outsider, says a DeSoto police officer, is how you get yourself shot.
The end of Taylor Smith's real story remains open. The people who hear it, be they football coaches or the strangers asked to look at his picture, often share the same reaction. It's odd, the thought of a grown man spending time around high school students. Whatever his motive, they want the impostor to stop before he finds his way to a school that doesn't force him to disappear.
Staff writers Brooks Egerton and Tawnell Hobbs and staff researcher Darlean Spangenberger contributed to this report.