It could be said that the exploits on the football field of Jonesboro-Hodge defensive lineman, Peyton Smith, is the best kept secret in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association. If not the best kept, certainly one of them. He is the epitome of what would be described as a “diamond in the rough”.
The lack of attention is mind boggling. No defensive lineman in the state had as many tackles as the sculpted, 6’5” 265 lb. senior-to-be, registered last year for the Class 2A state semifinalist Tigers. That is regardless of classification. Despite such a lofty achievement, Smith’s name was nowhere to be seen on any of the various Class AA All-State teams. Not even as an Honorable Mention. Incredibly he wasn’t even named as a first or second team member to the All-District 1-2A squad. Go figure.
One possible explanation was that he has been lost in the fanfare that is being received by his teammate , three star national recruit, Xavier Atkins. Certainly the attention the University of Missouri commit, who also has offers from Tennessee, Louisiana Tech and Grambling and just last week from LSU, has received after his school record setting stellar sophomore season is well founded. After all Atkins not only led the state with 219 tackles and 180 solo stops but finished with the 7th highest total of tackles and 2nd most solo stops in the entire nation. That Atkins possesses “generational” talent is undisputed.
What seems to overlooked though is a major attributing factor that played a role in Atkins the opportunity to average close to 16 tackles a game for the year and in the early portion of the season, upward of 20+ tackles per contest.
A look at the game films of the 2021-22 season shows, especially during the regular season, that the standout linebacker who was virtually unknown before the season often had clear paths to ball carriers and quarterbacks, which to his credit he capitalized on. One primary factor was the disruption that the Tigers defensive front was causing. Especially Smith, who virtually every game was fighting against two and sometimes even three blockers.
As result, Smith didn’t register “eye popping” statistics during the regular season but was routinely second or third on the team in combined tackles and assists. Then the playoffs started. Atkins had turned in such a prolific regular season, opposing coaches smartly focused their attention on trying to reduce his devastating impact. The result was more “double teams” on Atkins which gave Smith more opportunities to do battle in one-on-one situations. Suddenly the tackle total started skyrocketing. In three of the four postseason games, Smith posted 10 or more combined tackles and had a tackle for a loss.
Smith’s response to not receiving any attention from scouts or postseason award voters?
“It just made me work harder this spring and summer,” said Smith. “I want to do more my senior year.”
Part of Smith’s preparation, other than burying himself in the weight room this summer has been to attend camps, something that he previously hardly ever did before.
JHHS head football coach offered another reason that Smith hasn’t gotten many calls from college coaches.
“I told him at the end of the season last year that he needed to go to as many camps as he could over the summer,” recalled JHHS head coach Terrance Blankenship. “I knew that one of the reasons he wasn’t getting many looks was that no one had seen him.”
Smith heeded Blankenship’s advice this summer, going to camp at McNeese State in Lake Charles, University of Arkansas – Monticello and just last week plying his skills at the Razorback Camp hosted by the University of Arkansas. It seems to be paying dividends.
This is evidenced by the prestigious Louisiana prep recruiting journal, Louisiana Football Magazine recently contacting Smith to do an interview for a feature article that is soon to be released about some of the top prospects in the state this year. It was something that Smith was appreciative of and hopes helps him realize his dream of playing on the next level.
“I don’t have any offers yet which sometimes makes me feel invisible, so I am thankful the attention that they have given me.” stated Smith. “I am working hard to get noticed and am eager for the upcoming season to get started. I hope to be able to turn some heads.”
Below are a few excerpts from the interview.
LFM: What is your favorite thing to do?
Smith: Working out! I used to be a small angry kid around 160 pounds. Working out helped me go to quiet place and deal with that. Now it’s something I love to do and I know it will make me better at what I want to do for a living, and that’s play football. I used to fish a lot too but I’ve mostly been getting ready for my Senior Season.
LFM: What are your favorite colleges?
Smith: I just went to Razorback camp last week in Fayetteville. I really liked the Arkansas coaching staff and it felt like the place I need to be for the next step in my football career. At this point, I think Arkansas is where I belong! Louisiana Tech is close to home and has done a lot of good in their football program. I went to camp there last summer before my junior year. Ohio State also really stands out to me as they put out great defensive ends in every year in the NFL Draft. My favorite player, 49ERs Nick Bosa came out of Ohio State. I don’t really have another favorite. I don’t have any offers yet which is hard for me to understand sometimes and I feel invisible. I did have LSU call and ask Coach Blank about me. Lamar University has talked to me alot and I’ve had camp invites to McNeese and UAM.
LFM: What are your plans after graduation?
Smith: I hope to continue to play in college and major in kinesiology. After my football career is over, I want to own my own gym and train young guys like me, have gone unnoticed. I want to help them achieve their goals.”
To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE