Jaylon Smith out of the shadows
Once known as Ohio State RB Rod Smith's brother, Jaylon makes name for himself
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- As he made his way home from a celebratory meal following the biggest win of his career at the time, Jaylon Smith could not wait to see his brother. He was the person he wanted to talk to most.
Rod was nowhere to be found, though. He had not come home. There was just no way he was going to let little brother, Jaylon, a freshman, rub Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers' 14-8 win over heated rival Paul Harding in his face. Jaylon played linebacker as the Luers defense bottled up the Harding offense and star senior running back Rod.
"I was going to jump on him, talk some trash," Jaylon Smith said laughing.
There were plenty of Big Brother-Little Brother moments in that game, too, in which Rod got the best of Jaylon. Significantly smaller than his current 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame as a freshman, an injury forced Jaylon to move to fullback in that game and block his 6-3, 230-pound brother as he crashed the line of scrimmage from his safety position. Rod showed no sympathy for his brother.
"He just threw me on the ground and said 'Get your (blank) up,'" said Jaylon, leaving out his brother's expletive from that not so brotherly exchange.
But despite the win and starting at Indiana power Bishop Luers as a freshman, Jalen was still squarely in Rod's shadow, who was a four-star running back ranked No. 56 in the Class of 2010 ESPNU 150 and now plays at Ohio State.
"He was looked at as Rod Smith's younger brother," said Mike Ledo, president of AWP Sports Performance where Jaylon trains.
It was not until this past season as a junior did Jaylon, an ESPNU Watch List prospect and one of the country's most sought-after linebackers, felt like he emerged from Rod's lengthy shadow.
There was a specific moment too when he knew it. That was when Jaylon picked up offer No. 8, which exceeded the number of offers his brother had. Smith now has more than 20 offers from programs such as Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC.
"It showed I can be as good as him," Smith said before he paused and reconsidered his comments. "It showed I can be better, too."
He still leans on Rod for advice when it comes to recruiting, though. Having witnessed the process up close a few years ago, Jaylon knows what to look for in a school and what to look for in a coach.
"It's an advantage for me because our family has been through the whole recruiting process," Smith said. "We know who's talking crap, who's not telling the truth, who's just talking to get you there."
And Smith passes that on to his teammates at Luers and AWP Sports. Ledo first talks about Smith's character and willingness to help those around him before he talks about his 4.4 speed or his edge rush or any of the other numerous qualities that make Smith one of the country's best.
There is not much reason for Smith to attend combines or camps at this point. Colleges are already drooling over him. His presence gives others -- coaches, media, scouts -- a chance to see his teammates and allow them to receive the attention they need to reach the level he is at.
"Now it's really just about helping my fellow teammates get exposure if I'm there," Smith said. "I'm just having fun. I'm getting ready for my senior year, and then it's off to college and being the little guy."
Just like the old "little brother" tag, though, it won't take long for Smith to rid himself of that label, too.