MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Although he is just days from concluding his junior year at Ooltewah High School, Jacques Smith knew Friday was the final track competition of his high school career.
Smith plans to graduate in December, then enroll at the University of Tennessee in January, hoping to get a head start on his college football career.
“I actually did think about it on the way to the track today,” Smith said. “I almost got a little emotional thinking about how I wouldn’t be competing in track anymore and this was it as far as my high school career goes.
“I’ve got football this fall, of course, but it was a weird feeling coming here today.”
After finishing second in the Class AAA shot put Friday, Smith went after his final event with the same determination with which he tracks down opposing quarterbacks. In his first season to compete in the discus, Smith won the state title in that event with a throw of 156 feet, 10 inches — only two inches better than the second-place finisher and 13 feet shorter than his personal best set last week.
“Besides his obvious physical attributes, what separates Jacques is the fact that the kid just loves to compete,” Ooltewah coach Ted Gatewood said. “He pays attention to detail and really analyzes people he’s competing against, no matter the sport. And another big thing is he respects everybody he goes against and gives his best at everything.”
Smith won the Class AAA state championship in the discus and finished a disappointing second in the shot put when Campbell County’s Preston Young improved his personal best throw by nearly four feet.
“I wanted to make sure I left here with at least one gold,” Smith said. “My goal was two, but I can live with one.”
Finishing second is not something Smith is accustomed to. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound defensive end was last year’s Class 5A Mr. Football award winner and earlier in the week was named the Scrappy Moore Male Athlete of the Year at the annual Best of Preps banquet. He’s also the state’s top-rated overall college prospect and despite the fact he is a firm commitment to UT, dozens of other college programs still are hoping to change his mind, including Alabama, Clemson and Georgia.
Smith will go to one day of the Crimson Tide’s summer camp for linemen and plans to visit two separate camps at Tennessee.
“I’ve got a pretty busy schedule, between working, working out and making a few camps and visits,” Smith said. “I love it every time I visit or talk with the Tennessee coaches. Coach (Ed) Orgeron tells me I’m going to be an All-American once I get up there, and I don’t argue with him. I just hope if I keep working at it that I can prove him right.
“I think the fact that so many of their coaches have NFL experience, when they tell you that they can get you ready for the next level, you tend to believe them. That’s why I wanted to graduate early and get to UT as soon as I could. I look at it as preparing for my career, and I don’t want to wait any longer than I have to to get started.”
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 20 years, starting at the News-Free Press as a 19-year-old reporter. He has been with the Times Free Press since its inception and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers in the nation ...