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February 21, 2012

Smith now casts his own shadow

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INDIANAPOLIS - For most of his life, Jaylon Smith has been known as Rod's little brother. But those days are over.

A four-star prospect out of Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Smith earned early notice from college coaches and recruiting services in part because he is the younger brother of current Ohio State sophomore linebacker/running back Rod Smith.

When people talk about the younger Smith today, however, the fact that his older brother plays for a major college program has become an afterthought.

"All my life I've been trying to get out of his shadow," Smith said. "I've done that this past year."

Smith furthered his own reputation on Monday, taking home MVP honors at the Best of the Midwest camp in Indianapolis. Smith's performance was nearly flawless, and featured two 40-yard dash times in the 4.4-second range. For the nation's No. 34 prospect, however, it was just another day at the office.

"Everybody has weaknesses, so really I just have to go back to work, keep training, work on my agility and footwork, and my overall IQ of the game has to get better in all aspects," Smith said following the combine.

Making Smith's performance even more impressive is the fact that he has spent most of his time the last two months on the basketball court, not the football field.

"Once a football player, always a football player," Smith remarked. "[Basketball] really doesn't mess me up. You just have to come out here and compete."

When his schedule allows, Smith does make it down to AWP - a local workout facility that stands for "Athletes with a purpose." The purpose, according to Smith, is not only to develop athletically, but also spiritually and mentally.

Being well-rounded off the field as well as on it is important to the Fort Wayne-area standout. It was one of the factors that contributed to him being an early selection to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl next January.

"It was a great honor," Smith said of his Army Bowl selection. "I can't wait for it. I'm going to live it up and I'm going to do my best during the season just to stay healthy and keep competing."

Besides being a multi-sport student-athlete, Smith is also juggling a constantly expanding recruiting process. He now holds 17 scholarship offers after adding three more last week.

"Friday I just got USC, Oklahoma and Illinois," Smith said. "They are some big names. USC just picked up some outside linebackers, so I'll have to pay attention to that."

With almost a full year remaining before he has to sign a National Letter of Intent, Smith is paying close attention to the programs that have offered. He has an unofficial visit scheduled to Notre Dame on March 3, but his focus at this stage is educating himself on the schools pursuing him, and not on selecting one to continue his career.

"I'm just going to keep my options open and get as many offers as I can," Smith said. "I'm in no rush to make a decision. Growing up I didn't watch college, so I didn't have a favorite team. I just want to go where I am going to get a chance to do my thing."

Ohio State has offered Smith a chance to do his thing. The question now is whether he will follow the path his brother took to Columbus, or carve a path of his own. But now that he has made his own name, Smith does not see his brother's presence on the Buckeyes' roster as a negative.

"It's a positive," Smith said. "Right now it is about making the best decision for me and if [Ohio State] is the place, then I'll do it. I talk to Coach [Mike] Vrabel regularly and Urban Meyer is a great guy."

Smith is not looking at his recruitment as a choice between joining his brother at Ohio State or making his way somewhere else. He has already paved his own path through his play this past fall, and continues to make his own name with performances such as the one Monday in Indianapolis.



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