The questions came flying out of his mouth almost as soon as Jaylon Smith could talk.
Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers junior OLB/RB Jaylon Smith was named one of eight five-star prospects in his class by 247Sports.
“He was always curious,” his mother Sophia Woodson said. “He always wanted to know about finances and what do you have to do to have a nice car. Just always asked about saving money. He was more interested in succeeding. He was interested in succeeding and to do what it takes to have nice things and be successful.”
“He did that from the jump,” his father Roger Smith added. “He asked things you wouldn’t expect a five or six-year old to ask questions about. Just things about life. ‘Dad, why did we need to save for this and prepare for this?’
The 6-foot-3, 212-pound Smith still has a lot of questions, especially for the many college recruiters. On Tuesday, the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers outside linebacker/running back prospect was one of eight juniors named by 247Sports as a five-star player in his class.
“Growing up I was interested in a lot of things and knowing things and asking a lot of questions,” Smith said. He already holds scholarship offers from Ohio State, Indiana, Purdue, Tennessee and Mississippi State. “I want to know everything about everything.”
Smith knows he wants to go into the medical field in some capacity, possibly as a veterinarian, and his parents believe his inquisitive mind has helped the honor student become a dominant football player.
“Being able to react to things and envision things that could happen and how it happens,” Roger said. “His focus, it definitely helped with his focus. He’s so focused on something. There is no stop in him or settling. I think that’s just the way he’s grown up.”
The big game
The picture from the local paper still hangs at Smith’s mother house where Jaylon and his older brother Rod, now a redshirt-freshman running back for Ohio State lived.
In his season opener last Friday, Smith helped lead Bishop Luers to a victory over 5-A rival Fort Wayne (Ind.) Snider, rushing for 218 yards and three touchdowns while adding three tackles for loss.
Jaylon was a freshman linebacker at state powerhouse Bishop Luers, and Rod was a senior running back and arguably the top player in the state for Harding High.
“I really wanted Rod to win,” Sophia laughed. “He was older. It was his last year. Jaylon, the younger brother, they had an article in the paper and in the picture Jaylon was tackling Rod. It was so cute. I still have that on the refridgerator . Rod isn’t too happy about that.”
Rod boasted all week about what he and his Harding teammates were going to do to Jaylon. The local news had stories running every day highlighting the two brothers. In the end, Jaylon forced a key fumble on Rod that helped Bishop Luers eek out a 14-8 victory.
“I stayed away from him all week,” Jaylon said. “He pushed me and he said a lot of stuff and I wanted to give him my all. That was probably my favorite game of my career in high school. Getting to play against my big brother and me show out, I was hype for that.”
In the end, Rod was happy for his brother too.
“We shook hands and he said he loved me and he said good job,” Jaylon said.
Jaylon had thought about joining Rod at Harding, but eventually pushed his parents to send him to the private school Luers, where he’d have less distractions and a more distinguished football program.
“We had to think about that,” Sophia said. “I knew it was a good school and I knew the athletic programs were one of the best in the city. He really wanted to go there because he was determined to get a football scholarship and he wanted to be in a good program. He didn’t want to get distracted. You know how kids can sometimes in public schools distract you. That was his reason for choosing Luers and me letting him go.”
Becoming a force
Smith blossomed as a football player last fall, racking up 11.5 sacks and two interceptions, while also rushing for 634 yards and eight scores. He’s helped his team win two consecutive 2-A state championships, and this summer he earned MVP honors for the linebacker position at the Ohio State Nike Football Training Camp.
Besides the programs that have already offered, Smith is drawing interest from many of the nation’s top programs coast to coast, and he remains completely open regarding the recruiting process. He talks to Rod about what to look for and expect, and he leans on his parents, but in the end Jaylon says he won’t be swayed by anyone.
“This decision is something that I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life, so I plan on choosing where I want to go,” he said.
Like much of the family, Smith’s father wouldn’t mind seeing Jaylon join Rod at Ohio State.
“Of course I would like for him to go to Ohio State just because we’re familiar with the program, but ultimately I want him to go where he wants to go,” Roger said. “We’re going to sit back and evaluate everything that comes at him. The same way we did with his brother, it’s going to be his decision and whatever he decides we’ll go with him. Of course we want him close. We don’t want him too far so we can get there and watch.”
Jaylon’s mother agrees that she doesn’t want her son to go far, but unlike most of the family, her Ohio State is not her personal leader.
“I want him to stay in Indiana,” Sophia said. “I have a pick. I can’t say but I do have a pick. But Jaylon knows that it’s his decision. I’m going to try my best to persuade him to do what I want, but it’s his life and his future. He’s always listened to mom before, and hopefully he does with this, but if not I can’t be mad at him. I want him to go where he wants.”
This fall, Smith wants to go to as many football games as possible. The only game he has on the calendar for sure is Ohio State’s season opener on Sept. 3 against Akron to watch his brother.
“I’m going to check out some Irish games,” Smith said. “I have heard nothing but good things about them and their academic level is very high. If you don’t make it to the pros or something like that, it’s all about getting that great education. I played in a 7-on-7 up there this summer and I saw their cathedral and how their buildings were, and I liked how holy they were.”
“IU and Purdue, I plan on going to check them out. My team’s bye week is the weekend of Sept. 10 and Tennessee plays Cincinnati that day. I’m going to try and get down there.”
Smith has no timetable for a college decision.
Already playing like a five-star
In his season opener last Friday, Smith helped lead Bishop Luers to a victory over 5-A rival Fort Wayne (Ind.) Snider, rushing for 218 yards and three touchdowns while adding three tackles for loss. He has big goals for himself and the season, and being named five stars is just the beginning.
“All the hard work I’ve been putting in, I’m glad it’s paying off,” Smith said. “I’m not stopping now and I’m trying to stay humble.
“I’m happy I’m in shape,” he continued. “That’s a good thing so I’m maintaining that and working on my weaknesses. As a team, I want to be a great leader and I want to lead my team back to state for a three-peat, and next year for a four-peat. That would be a nice accomplishment.”
No question about that.