From QB to crease D to college Boys lacrosse: His dream of college football fading fast, Jon Smith finds lacrosse at Mount Hebron and excels. Result? A scholarship to UMBC.

April 17, 1997|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Mount Hebron's Jon Smith once had Division I football hTC dreams. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound quarterback drew oohs and aahs from coaches for his athleticism from the time he started on varsity as a sophomore.

But his team struggled terribly during those three years -- and so did he. And when the Division I football recruiters backed away after Smith's disappointing senior season, he had doubts about his athletic future.

"I was crushed. After getting letters from big-time schools at the beginning of the season, they slowly faded away. North Carolina State was the last one interested in me," Smith said. "Some smaller schools made me offers, but I didn't want to play lower than Division I. I just didn't live up to my expectations."

Luckily for Smith, he decided to go out for lacrosse last spring. He had never picked up a lacrosse stick until last February.

Almost overnight, Smith became a success playing long-stick defense, as the Vikings drove to the state finals for the second straight season, losing in overtime to Broadneck.

"That game was a 'rush,'" Smith said. "Not only was it my first year but I was playing. Lacrosse is my love now."

Smith attended Top Star Lacrosse Camp at Gettysburg last summer and made the top 40 team. More importantly, he attracted the attention of scouts.

"Coaches were drooling over him last summer," said Mount Hebron coach Jeff Doolan. "They couldn't believe he'd been playing less than a year. He started the third game he ever played."

UMBC finally landed Smith. He signed April 9 for a full-tuition scholarship his first two years, and full-tuition and board his junior and senior seasons.

"I give all the glory to God. He gave me my ability to play," said Smith, whose father is a Southern Baptist minister. "Mike Stromberg and Mike Machiran, our other two starting defenders, have also helped me out a lot. And I also want to thank Wilde Lake football coach Doug DuVall for all his efforts in helping me try to get a Division I football scholarship."

Smith has moved to close defense this season, guarding the crease. He plays good position-defense but needs to perfect checks that some players have.

"He has a lot to learn, but he's a big, strong fast kid who works really hard and is a vocal leader who is always out in front on our drills," Doolan said. "Players have to learn to use their feet first.

"You try not to teach them too much too soon. But he's ready to learn checks. He's an unbelievable athlete, and he'll be a great college player. I don't think he realizes what his potential is in lacrosse."

Because he's stuck on the crease and not guarding the wing attackmen, Smith tends to be hidden and not get the opportunity to build impressive statistics.

But he had two take-aways and six ground balls in Mount Hebron's only loss this season, against Broadneck.

Smith may not be totally finished with football.

"UMBC may have football in 1998," Smith said. "If they get a team I'll try to walk on."

He also played three years of varsity basketball at Mount Hebron and wouldn't mind playing that some more.

He's planning for a sports management major so that he can eventually coach.

Pub Date: 4/17/97

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