Ball State's 5-foot-8 WR excels on field
All that Jamill Smith asked for was an opportunity. He had the chance to play quarterback at the Division III level, but his goal all along was to go Division I.
There were no Division I scholarship offers, especially not for a 5-foot-8, 140-pound high school quarterback that was trying to convert to receiver. But Ball State said he could walk on to the football team.
“They gave me a shot when I came in to camp,” Smith said. “They gave me a shot to play.”
Smith, the smallest player in the Football Bowl Subdivision, according to the Ball State athletic department, has played quite well (he quickly earned a scholarship, too). The junior has caught 69 passes for 706 yards and six touchdowns, earning him first-team All-Mid-American Conference honors.
“I just see him as another playmaker on the team,” Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning said. “He’s proven that size doesn’t matter. One thing that makes him special is his attitude. He’s not scared to go up against anybody.”
Smith has helped Ball State (9-3) to six straight wins going into
the Beef O’Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl matchup with Central Florida
(9-4) tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Smaller – and often shorter – than even the kicker, Smith is a football anomaly. In a sport dominated by players that are often 4-10 inches taller and 40-100 pounds heavier, Smith has found success. A native of Muncie, Ind., Smith has 110 career catches and nine touchdowns.
“It seems like we’ve been on the same page since Day 1,” said Wenning, also a junior. “He’s a small receiver, but it makes him hard to guard.”
And Smith is doing it play after play, despite lining up against bigger cornerbacks each week. He had 14 catches for 146 yards against Northern Illinois, seven catches for 119 yards against Eastern Michigan, two touchdowns vs. Toledo and 221 all-purpose yards at Indiana.
He’s also Ball State’s return man, averaging 25.8 yards per kickoff return and 13.8 yards per punt return.
“It’s really a confident, heart, pride thing,” Smith said. “I play football no matter how big I am – this is what I do.”
Smith has a year left to further improve his resume. It would be an understatement to call a 140-pound receiver a longshot to make an NFL roster, but Smith has proven his ability to separate from cornerbacks and pull in passes.
It’s easy to draw a comparison to a player like the New England Patriots’ Wes Welker – they are both sure-handed, quick and tough to cover despite their size. But even the four-time Pro Bowler is 185 pounds – 45 more than Smith.
If the NFL doesn’t work out, Smith will try the Canadian Football League or the Arena Football League. Pro football, at any level, has always been a goal.
“That’s my dream,” Smith said.