Jaylon Smith, a talented athlete, Bishop Luers High School graduate and Notre Dame linebacker, was injured during the last game of his Notre Dame career on Jan. 1. Now recovered, he was recently drafted by the Dallas Cowboys and begins his NFL career this fall.
Smith sat down with Today’s Catholic to talk about how his early Fort Wayne influences, as well as his faith, formed him as a athlete and sustained him during his rehabilitation.
Today’s Catholic: What grade school did you attend? Did you participate in CYO or youth sports?
Jaylon Smith: I attended Village Elementary School and played Metro Youth Sports for the Outreach Rams, under Tom Macon.
Today’s Catholic: What sports interested you at an early age?
Jaylon Smith: I have always been interested in sports, but my favorites were football, baseball and basketball.
Today’s Catholic: Do you have any early recollections of your youth sports experiences?
Jaylon Smith: Some of my favorite and greatest memories are playing for the Rams. There was always lot of pressure on me because my brother was very well-known throughout the community for his football skills, and I wanted to be great like him. I was under his shadow and always wanted to live up to his expectations. That fueled me to be a great football athlete. My experience with the Rams was very unique, because I grew up with many of the guys on my team and a lot of them went to Bishop Luers as well. During our time at Bishop Luers we earned four state championships because of the chemistry we developed from playing together for so long.
Today’s Catholic: Did any early coaches influence you?
Jaylon Smith: Yes, Tom Macon, Matt Lindsey, Virgil Tharp and Matt Millhouse all had a very great influence over me.
Today’s Catholic: What lessons learned during youth sports have you carried over into today?
Jaylon Smith: I learned to always play with a passion, as well as to always give and receive respect from those around you. I also learned that in order to be great you must have dedication, work hard and be coachable.
Today’s Catholic: Did you have an early ambition to play a college or professional sport?
Jaylon Smith: Yes, I have wanted to play in the NFL since I was 7 years old.
Today’s Catholic: When did you decide to pursue football exclusively as your sport?
Jaylon Smith: For me, football has always been my first love, however I still really enjoyed playing baseball and basketball so I played those as well for a number of years. Senior year of high school I made the decision to focus solely on football.
Today’s Catholic: What words of wisdom would you share with coaches of youth sports, such as CYO?
Jaylon Smith: First and foremost, I have never had a concussion in my life and I would credit that to my Metro Youth Sports team, specifically Tom Macon, teaching me how to tackle the right way and play with my head up. Also, instilling the basic fundamentals of football into the youth is a huge key. You can apply those to everything in life and that has helped me greatly. Those basic fundamentals have helped me form my “Clear Eye View”. Clear Eye View is having a focused vision, determined belief and earned dreams. This means that whatever your Clear Eye View is, if you have those three keys, you will achieve your dreams.
Today’s Catholic: Has your faith played a part in your success?
Jaylon Smith: Faith is huge for my success. Because of my belief in God I have been blessed with success during my time playing football. It is very important to always give thanks to God, and that is just something I have always lived by. Giving Him thanks before, during and after games is a huge priority for me. Without Him, I wouldn’t have been blessed with the talents to even play this game at a high level.
Today’s Catholic: Can you think of a specific example in which you relied on your faith?
Jaylon Smith: Throughout my injury I have had to rely heavily on my faith. Throughout my success I have understood that an injury is always a possibility and I have feared that. Now that it has happened, I do not have any more fears because of my faith and trusting him that this injury was just part of His plan for me. I am humbled by the situation and very thankful it has happened because nothing has stopped me from my Clear Eye View.
Today’s Catholic: How do you practice and rely on your faith or beliefs in your day-to-day life?
Jaylon Smith: Consistent prayer drives me every day to put positive words into my conscious and subconscious mind which allows me to flow freely. Giving thanks to God day in and out keeps me on the path to success.
Today’s Catholic: Do you have any words of encouragement for a CYO youngster wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Jaylon Smith: Take it day by day, set goals and methods to achieve them. School is extremely important, and you must take it seriously. I still have a 3.0 GPA at the University of Notre Dame. Without valuing education, it is very hard to succeed in life.
Today’s Catholic: We wish you well as you recover from your injury. Congratulations on being selected by the Dallas Cowboys. Those of us who have followed your high school and college careers pray that you have a full recovery. We look forward to watching you in action in the NFL.
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