Smith did it as a big-play wide receiver when he had more than 50 catches and reached double digits in touchdowns.
Sanders, meanwhile, wreaked havoc on opposing offenses as a dominant defensive lineman.
This fall, the two Grangers will look to make the same kind of impact on the collegiate level.
On Wednesday, during the signing-day ceremony in the LaGrange High media center, Smith and Sanders signed their letters of intent to play football for Iowa Western, a two-year school in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Last season, Iowa Western went 12-0 and won the junior-college national championship.
Also signing on Wednesday was defensive lineman D.J. Hudson, who’ll be joining a championship program as well at Valdosta State.
Last season, Valdosta State won the NCAA Division II national championship.
Three other Grangers, running back Demoton Boyd, defensive lineman Chris Manning and defensive back Qua Baldwin signed with West Georgia Tech, and they’ll be a part of that program’s first ever team this fall.
West Georgia Tech will compete as a junior-college program.
LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch called it a “life-changing opportunity” for each of the players.
“You get an opportunity to go get an education,” Branch said. “They got here through their talent, hard work, and all that adds up to an opportunity.”
As for the five players going the junior-college route, Branch said the sky is the limit for them.
“The guys that go to junior college, they have another opportunity,” Branch said. “They’ve got two years to show you that they’re good enough to play in the SEC. And I know some of those guys are. It’s an awesome deal for them.”
Branch said “there are a lot of roads” to get to a big-time program, and junior-college football is one of those roads.
“Everybody doesn’t travel the same road,” Branch said. “There are guys playing in that national-championship game who went by way of some junior college. Those kids that are going to junior college, I look for big things out of them.”
Sanders, who has been recruited by a number of major programs and had earlier committed to Tennessee, believes spending a year or more at Iowa Western will be beneficial.
“It’ll help me a lot,” he said. “I’ve got a chance to get bigger, stronger, faster, get me ready for the D-I level.”
Sanders also said having a friend and fellow Granger with him in Iowa will be nice.
“It’s going to help out a lot,” he said. “If I’m down, he can help me out. If he’s down, I can help him out. We’ll just do what we have to do.”
Smith said if things work out, he and Sanders will making the next leap together as well.
“After that, me and Joe, we’ll probably go to Washington,” Smith said.
Smith said he enjoyed his visit to the Iowa Western campus, and that the coaches did a great job recruiting he and Sanders.
“They showed us a lot of love,” Smith said.
Smith added that there’s a “championship environment” surrounding the program.
That same championship environment can be found at Valdosta State where Hudson is headed.
The Blazers have won three national championships since 2004, including the 2012 title.
Hudson visited the campus, met with the coaches, and he felt at home.
“I liked it a lot,” Hudson said. “It seems like it’ll be a pretty good fit. I’m really looking forward to it.”
The 6-foot-1, 280-pouind Hudson had 80 tackles, including 10 sacks and 10 tackles for loss as a senior.
In 2011, Hudson had 106 tackles.
Hudson is also a standout in track and field, and he won a region championship in the shot put as a junior.