The future changed for Jaylen Smith this past summer.
A 5’10”, 170 pound junior running back and track standout at Shea High, Smith was invited to attend a football camp over the summer at the University of Rhode Island.
Smith, 16, was among the several hundred high school football players participating in the camp and showcased his quickness right away. He recorded the fastest time in the 40 (4.49), caught every pass during a route drill and was instrumental in making others miss. Smith quickly began to draw attention from college coaches in attendance, including one in particular. Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh was in Kingston hoping to secure Bishop Hendricken’s Xavier Truss (who has since committed to Georgia). Smith was able share the spotlight with Truss that summer day.
“I worked hard, twice as hard with all those coaches there,” he said “After camp I talked to (Harbaugh). It was exciting. Michigan has always been my favorite college team.”
“Jaylen drew some attention at (the URI) camp,” said Shea Head Coach Dino Campopiano. “Jaylen is a great talent and to receive attention from colleges like Michigan and others is great, but he has a long way to go and a lot of work to do. He has to work on his defensive skills. He can run and catch, but Division I schools wanted to see you play both sides. He’s willing to put the work in. ”
The goal is to play college football. Only a junior, Smith is well aware he still has a lot of work to do and goals to accomplish at Shea High. He is well on his way.
After tremendous success in Division II, which included a 24-4 record since 2014, two league titles and a Super Bowl Championship, Shea has moved up to Division IA this season.
Smith, who was called up to the varsity at the end of his freshman year and has started every game since he was a sophomore, said the Raiders have embraced for the opportunity to compete with the the state’s best.
“I love the competition. That’s the best thing about this sport,” he said. “If you’re not playing against the best, it’s not as fun.”
Already the Raiders are proving they belong in the state’s top division. Competing in their first year in D-1, the Raiders boast a 4-1 record. Smith, who was All-League and averaged roughly two touchdowns and 100 yards a a sophomore, has continue to dominate this season. He has scored at least two touchdowns and has averaged over 100 yards in every game this year. In Shea’s most recent victory against Barrington (28-10), Smith had three touchdowns and over 100 yards.
“He came in in great shape this season and works hard,” said Campopiano. “It’s great for our team to move up to Division I and it’s great for (Jaylen) personally to be playing against the best teams and players in the state. He’s off to a great start this year.”
While football is his passion, Smith insists academics comes first.
“Academics are very important…the most important,” said Smith. “My mom and my uncle always told me ‘student comes before athlete.”
With his father out of the picture, Smith’s praises his uncle Jovan Smith and Campopiano for guiding him on and off the field.
“I am very close to my uncle,” said Smith of Jovan, who played football at Shea during Campioano’s first year as head coach 23 years ago. “He has always watched out for me and is always there for me. He said, if you stay out of trouble and focus, anything is possible.
“My uncle and Coach Camp have been my biggest role models,” said Smith. “They showed me how to take take responsibility for myself, show respect, work hard and be a man.”
“Jaylen is a great kid who is doing all the right things on the field, in school and personally,’ said Campopiano. “I’m proud of him. He’s been a joy to coach. He’s been one reason we have been successful in Division I. He’s a talented kid….the full package. Hopefully in a couple of years he’ll be in college and playing football. That’s what we want for him.”