Boyle County freshman Jackson Smith more than just a kicker
Boyle County’s kicker for the upcoming season has already made a name for himself.
Jackson Smith hit a 51-yard field goal last year for Boyle County in the middle school championship game — one of three that he made that game — and is the nationwide No. 1 ranked kicker and punter in the freshman class by ProKicker.com.
“He is a special talent,” Boyle County head coach Chuck Smith said. “He’s not only gifted and talented, the thing that impresses me more than anything is that he’s a worker. He’s always working his skill. You see him out here on his own sometimes with his dad, you always see him working on his craft. That’s the thing that impresses me the most.”
His father, Andy Smith, played at Kentucky and was first team All-SEC in 1999.
“He is obviously well advanced for his age,” Andy said. “I tell him this all the time, the sky’s the limit, he just has to work at it. I think what sets him apart is that he learned at a very young age the proper technique. He’s worked at it, to his credit he’s really put in the time and the effort to continue to get better. He’s still young, he’s 14, but he has a bright future if he continues to put in the work and continue to get stronger.”
Jackson said that he enjoys going to kicking camps and performing against some of the best kickers and punters in the nation, regardless of class.
Last weekend, he was invited to the ProKicker.com Top Prospect camp in Richmond. He improved on his class-leading numbers: He’s first-in-class in kickoff hangtime (3.465 seconds) with a 90 percent field goal accuracy. His punting is also best-in-class, averaging more than 37 yards per punt with an average of 3.879 seconds of hangtime.
“It was a good experience, all the juniors and seniors come across the country to be there,” Jackson said. “Just watching how good they are, I’ve never really been to a camp with all that skill. Then there were like 20 guys who came over from Australia, they were really good.”
Moving from middle school to high school means kicking a bigger, heavier football, but that won’t slow Jackson Smith: He practices daily and will be Boyle’s starting kicker and punter for the upcoming season, no question.
“Right now I’m just focused on being the best in my class, because all of those older guys are in a different recruiting class,” Jackson said. “I’m ahead in punting and I’m up there in kicking too. But I need to improve on my kickoffs, right now they’re going to about the goal line and I need to kick them farther. That’ll come when I get stronger. Field goals I feel like I’m good, punting I’m good, but I need to work on kickoffs.”
That’s not all he does, though: He’s been playing at receiver and outside linebacker for the junior varsity team.
“That’s the thing about it, he’s a really good athlete,” coach Smith said. “He’s a good player. He could easily say that ‘I just want to be the kicker,’ but that’s not his mentality at all. He’s a competitor, he’s a winner and I don’t know how you can do any better with a kicker and that mentality.”
Jackson said that it’s because of his dad that he has become the top prospect that he is — but he’s still got a ways to go to beat his dad punting the ball.
“He’s the one who’s got me to where I am now, he kicked in college and had some chances in the NFL,” Jackson said. “That’s how I learned to kick and punt. I think I have him in field goals, but I’m nowhere near him in punting.”
Andy said that he tries not to pressure his son into anything — he wants Jackson to do what he loves.
“I tell myself constantly, I try to back off,” Andy said. “I try not to put pressure on him because I want him to enjoy it. And he does. His success on the field has had the light shine on him. I try not to push him, but at the same time I want him to recognize that he has a very unique talent and I want him to take advantage of that. There’s a fine line there.”
Jackson is taking it a year at a time — he might be needed at linebacker or receiver in future years. There’s no reason to limit him to just kicking so early in his high school career, Andy said.
“He’s a good athlete, he’s strong, he’s got a good frame,” Andy said. “I tell him, we take everything one year at a time, one goal at a time. This year, coach Smith said he’ll be the kicker and punter and he really needs to focus on that and help the varsity win a state championship. But he loves playing receiver, he loves playing linebacker. I don’t want to limit him down the road to not playing those. We’ll just take it year by year and see how he does and see what the team needs. I told him, ‘whatever the coaches need from you, that’s what you need to do.’”
And Jackson’s willing to do just that. His ultimate goal for the upcoming season? Help the Rebels go back-to-back.
He’ll certainly do that with his leg — he’s always working on improving his craft.
“There’s two main things: Explosiveness and consistency,” Jackson said. “Always taking your same steps, hitting the same ball every time. Then just being really explosive, that’s what makes the ball go far … I probably hit about 10-15 kickoffs, 35 field goals and 20 punts (each day). Start warming up with short ones, kicking longer you don’t try to swing any harder, just keep that same form and it’ll come. Right now, I’m hitting 50 yard field goals pretty good. Right now my max is probably about 55 yards.”
Coach Smith is excited to add a new threat to his offense this season, and not just for field goals and extra points.
“He’s going to be a weapon for us,” coach Smith said. “He’s still just a freshman, he’s got to get some leg strength to get the ball into the end zone on kickoffs, but I think at some point he’ll be putting a lot of them in the end zone. Then I think his punting is every bit as good as his kicking. He’s got really good control of the punt, he can pin people back, get it out of bounds, get it inside the 10 yard line. He’s a really, really valuable tool and just a gifted kid.”