As a 9-year coach for the Enterprise High School football program, Justin Jones has been there every step of the way for this outgoing class of seniors and has formed special connections, bonds and memories along the way with each player. Among his many memories, Jared Smith’s fight through adversity stands out.
Smith—a receiver—started as a sophomore until an untimely ACL injury left him sidelined. He worked tirelessly to get back on the field, and his goal was realized midway through the 2019 season; however, another obstacle stood in his way: a new offensive scheme.
“Early in the year and for the first half of the season, we were a predominant single-wing (offense). This young man has been a major contributor to our program for years. He’s a very, very talented receiver,” Jones said. “This young man put his hands to the dirt and played tight end for us last year in the single wing. Our offense evolved, and he got to play more of a true receiver position towards the end of the season. Just like Coach (Rick) Darlington said, this guy went in match ups every Friday night and was outmatched, but he played with a lot of heart and we’re proud of him for that.
“One thing the kids all know that you parents probably don’t is receiver in this offense is very difficult to play. I don’t mean that you have to be a technician on your routes or your releases, but this offense changes tremendously week to week. There may be a week when we play with one receiver, there may be a week when we play with five, and this young man adapted. He always knew he had a spot on the field, but it changed. We could run the same play three weeks in a row and he may be in a different spot on the field running a different route each time. It’s a testament to his knowledge and his way of fighting through adversity.”
Despite an ACL injury, Jones said Smith is the fastest kid in the program. After being clocked running a 4.4 40-yard-dash through coach Brad Fortney’s speed and agility program, he’s also registered at a top speed of 23 miles per hour.
“He stands out,” Jones said. “We’re excited for what he’s going to do. He’s a great athlete. His recruiting is heating up and we’re excited for him.”
Last Wednesday, Smith signed his letter of commitment to the University of West Florida to play receiver. He’ll also have the opportunity to face off against teammate Jaylon Webster (West Alabama, defensive back).
Speaking to the senior class as a whole, Jones said, “To the senior class, I want to say I love you. I’ve seen the majority of y’all since Coppinville and Dauphin. I’m excited to see the men you’ve become and the adversity that you’ve faced. I know you’re all going to do special things.”