The Fresno State recruiting train has been rolling pretty hard lately. The latest recruit to buy into head coach Tim DeRuyter’s family environment is Houston (TX) St. Pius X safety Jalen Smith. Smith took an unofficial visit to Fresno State this past weekend and committed to the Bulldogs on the final day of that visit. BulldogPlaybook reported that Smith could pull the trigger on his visit and that’s exactly what ended up happening.
There are a number of reasons why Smith chose Fresno State, but mom was at the top of the list. She had to be comfortable with sending her son from Texas to Fresno State and this visit was a chance for her to ask all the mom questions that moms love to ask. She asked and Fresno State did their part because Smith said that mom’s approval was the final stamp he needed before making his selection. Once she gave her blessing, Smith’s recruitment was basically a done deal.
”Honestly, I think it was just the coaching staff,” Smith said. “It was the coaching staff and it was just the way that they took me and my parents around the campus. My mom really loved it a lot - that was the really big part about it because I’m going far away. My mom really liked how the coaches took us around and she had questions, but during the tour they answered all the questions that she wanted to ask. That was something that was really big. Also, just the campus was really nice. I saw some of the players and they seemed like they liked it. Everyone had a nice relationship. It didn't matter if it was the football coaches, basketball coaches, football players, or the basketball players. The academic advisor for football I really liked him a lot. He talked about my major, what I want to major in and it seemed like he cared a lot about his players.”
Convincing mom was a matter of getting her familiarized with how Fresno State runs their program. From the moment she arrived on campus, Smith’s mother was welcomed into the fold and encouraged to ask any and all of her questions. What really sealed the deal for her was seeing the coaches practice what they preach. Coach Jordan Peterson and Coach Marcus Woodson were there with their wives and kids, so the whole affair was really one big family gathering. That’s all it really took for her to feel comfortable sending her son several states over for the next four years of his life.
”I think what really what it was is just my mom felt comfortable,” Smith said. “She is giving me away to them if you think about it because I’m not going to be home for a really long and certain amount of time. So when they took me around campus, it was just my mom got a way better relationship with the coaches just from walking around with them. The first day I got there we actually went up to the school and they just took me around a little bit, took me to the football office. It was just a big family in there and that’s what I liked a lot about how the coaches have such a great relationship. Coach Peterson and Coach Woodson, their wives were in there with their kids, so my mom felt like this is a true family and I trust these coaches with my son. That’s what she was basically saying so that’s what really helped me with this decision.”
Another facet of the trip that appealed to Jalen Smith was the academics. Smith wants to pursue a career in sports journalism after his playing days are over and the presentation given to him by Fresno State left him feeling more confident in his ability to make that happen. Smith was impressed by the attention shown to the academic side of things and he also appreciates that they’ll let you be your own man if you are succeeding, but will step in if you’re not living up to your end of the studying bargain.
”I like how the advisor said he’ll always be watching,” Smith said. “He said his door is always open no matter what time it is. You can call him whenever you want. If you need help, then he helps you. I like how he had trust in his football players and his students. They trust that once they get those six hours in every week that they’re supposed to get, he wouldn’t keep bothering you about it. But he’ll still get on you if you’re not handing it. If you’re doing it, then they’ll ease back. I just like that a lot. He showed me around the academic area where some people get iPads. That was something that really turned me on also.”
Smith is currently being recruited as a nickel/corner. Safety is a position that’s on the table if he is able to put on a little height, but right now the Bulldogs see Smith in more of a corner role. That’s perfectly with Smith, who will be playing cornerback for St. Pius this year. Smith knows that his personal development and literal growth will play a role in determining where he ends up on the field.
“They were telling me that they were going to see how much I developed from now to next year,” Smith said. “They want to see if I get about 6-feet, 6-foot-1, then maybe I can play that safety role. At the same time, if they like how I play this year, since I’m playing corner, then they said they’ll look at me and say ‘ok, he can play corner.’ Right now they’re recruiting me as a nickel or a cornerback, depending on how the depth chart is. If I get a little bit taller, then I can play that safety.”
Interestingly enough, the Bulldogs had picked up a commitment from another Texas safety right before Smith committed. The other safety, James Bailey, is someone Smith had met on an earlier visit. When he found out that they would both be headed to Fresno State, he thought it was pretty cool. It was just another thing that made Smith feel comfortable pulling the trigger on the Bulldogs.
“What was funny about that is that we visited New Mexico on the same day,” Smith said. “We were in the same group together. When I met with coach DeRuyter, he was telling me that they just got a safety that committed also and I said ‘wait, what’s his name?’ because I remembered him. I was talking to him at the New Mexico visit and they told me that he got offered by Fresno State. He was going to visit there, but he went the week before me. When they told me that, I thought that’s somebody that just committed there and I have also met them, so that’s one person I know. It was really just a good thing.”
Stay tuned to BulldogPlaybook.com for more updates on the 2014 Fresno State season.
Josh Webb is a Staff Writer for BulldogPlaybook. You can follow him on Twitter at @FightOnTwist.