Sept. 2, 2001
ATLANTA – As a child, sophomore wide receiver Jonathan Smith got up early every morning to watch “The Flintstones.” As a Yellow Jacket, he gets up early to prepare for his next opponent.
Smith’s diligence has never been more evident than in Tech’s 35-7 win over The Citadel on Sept. 1. The Arglye, Ga., native led the Yellow Jackets, who travel to Navy next Saturday (Noon, Fox Sports Net South), with career highs of seven catches and 108 yards. He also hauled in his first touchdown as a Jacket, a 40-yard pass from quarterback George Godsey that gave Tech, a 14-0 lead six minutes into the game.
“It felt like I was on top of the world,” Smith said. “I scored my first collegiate touchdown. We spread the ball around a lot, so I got a lot of catches. I was just proud to be able to do what I did.”
Smith, who caught seven balls for 80 yards a year ago, expected his role to increase this season, but a season-ending knee injury to classmate Nate Curry, as well minor ailments of several other receivers, thrust Smith into a starting role versus the Bulldogs. He was more than ready.
“I knew I had a bigger load on my back with him (Curry) out, so I knew I had to step it up and play a little harder for him,” Smith said.
Smith, nicknamed Fred for his aforementioned affinity for his favorite cartoon, is confident that fans will see efforts similar to his performance against The Citadel throughout this season. He plans on “making a lot of catches and big plays,” all while being a team player.
“I set a few goals like do the best I can for the team, play hard, give all I have, a lot of effort and enthusiasm,” Smith added. “I knew I was going to have to play a big role in this team’s success this year.”
Knowing he would have a chance to contribute this season, Smith prepared tirelessly, both physically and mentally, over the off-season.
“I hit the weights real hard, the whole team hit the weights hard,” said Smith, who also played quarterback and defensive back at Clinch County High School. “I gained about 13 pounds. I got a lot stronger and more physical and I got into that playbook so I’d be ready for this year.”
However, the start of the season has not marked the end of Smith’s diligent preparation. He takes the time to study for each game as if it was a final exam.
“We have a lot of tip sheets that the coaches provide and I study them and look over them and picture in my mind what I’m going to be doing out there on the field,” said Smith, a management major. “It’s mostly mental preparation.”
Smith’s hard work and improvement has not gone unnoticed by the Tech coaching staff. “I really like Jonathan Smith,” head coach George O’Leary said. “I think he’s a heck of a receiver. We’ve got to see him more and take what people are giving us. It reminds me a lot of when Dez (White) and (Kelly) Campbell were playing together. Jonathan can be a great compliment to Kelly this season.”
With continued high praise from his coaches and several more exceptional outings sure to come, it would be understandable for Smith to wonder about his chances of taking his game to the NFL, but the sophomore is content to have fun with while here in Atlanta.
“My main focus is to enjoy the time that I have here, get a degree and be able to do what ever I want to when I leave,” said Smith, who is well aware of the doors opened with a diploma from Tech.
Any more performances like he put on Saturday and there are going to be many, many people that enjoy Jonathan Smith’s time here.