Mississippi All-Star has family ties to Tide
When Jamarius Smith was growing up in Meridian, Miss., it didn’t take long for friends to figure out his favorite college football team.
“I was born into it,” he said. “My whole room was all Crimson Tide, everything from Big Al to some (pictures of) players on the wall. I remember Shaun Alexander and a tackle that played with my dad and the quarterback (Andrew Zow) that played with him back then.”
His father, Kenny Smith, signed with the Crimson Tide in 1997 after being a three-sport star at Meridian High. He was named the Mississippi defensive player of the year after recording 65 solo tackles and 10 sacks as a defensive tackle. He was also a double-digit scorer in basketball and hit .451 with eight home runs on the diamond the summer before he signed with Alabama.
“He played basketball, baseball and football,” said his son, one of two quarterbacks for the Mississippi seniors in the Alabama vs. Mississippi High School All-Star Classic. “He said his mind was on baseball but he thought he was too big to play so he kept playing football. He told me to keep after both until I found something that really fit me.”
Kenny Smith went on to a four-year career at Alabama and his son frequently made the trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium to watch his father play. Later, he would follow him through a National Football League career that included four years with the New Orleans Saints.
“I moved around a little bit,” said the younger Smith. “I stayed where he was staying for a little bit, then I came back to my hometown of Meridian. But it was a good deal, just remembering when he went to Alabama and going to a lot of games.
“I went to a lot of games when he played with the Saints. Then he went to the Patriots and Kansas City and he played a little bit with Tampa Bay before he tore his Achilles’. I was a fan of any team he went to, so I was all around, really.”
Kenny Smith will make the game this weekend, but is currently down in Florida where he is building a house and starting a new business. J’Mar, as he is called, inherited a lot of his father’s athletic talent, excelling in football and baseball at Meridian High.
He earned attention from recruiters as a junior and was committed to Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs pulled their scholarship offer prior to the start of the 2014 season, causing Smith to commit to Louisiana Tech, where he was offered the opportunity to play both sports.
“(Mississippi State) offered me my ninth grade year, then they pulled their offer coming into my senior year,” Smith said. “I still hear from all of them but at the beginning of the recruiting process I wanted that Alabama offer or just to get a detail with them but as time passed I knew something wasn’t going right so I had to take it for what it was.
“Louisiana Tech offered me my 11th grade year and they’ve been the school that has been talking to me a lot so I committed there.”
After batting .387 as a junior, the outfielder and third baseman may get a tempting offer from professional scouts, but he seems content to play both sports in college and see which sport offers him the best opportunity at a professional career.
As a football player, he completed 187 of 298 passes this season for 2,565 yards and 26 touchdowns and ran for 760 yards and 12 touchdowns on 162 carries as one of the state’s top dual-threat quarterbacks but he isn’t sure his running will be featured in Saturday’s game.
“It’s whatever the play call the coach has, but the fans are going to see a great player who’s going to give it his all and just to make the most of the opportunity and come out with a win,” Smith said. “I just want to go out and play hard. This is my last high school game so I want to go out with a bang and make sure I can go back and say I did the best I could.”
The 28th annual game kicks off at noon on Saturday at Cramton Bowl. Admission is $10. Alabama has won the last six games and 14 of the last 16 contests, but the visitors believe they have the defense to snap the winning streak.
“We talk about it every day,” Smith said. “Mississippi hasn’t won a lot of times so we’re going to try and bring the trophy back to Mississippi.”