Smith's mother, Princess, raised her only son without help from anyone else. The two never had everything they wanted. But now, Jonathan has earned an opportunity to reward her for being his guiding light through the many pitfalls facing adolescents in inner-city Durham.
"Being a single mother raising a black kid in the neighborhood – she did a real good job," Smith said. "I never got in any trouble with the police or anything like that. She always helped me to keep my head on straight."
With her guidance and parental stability, Smith set a goal early on, which was attained when he committed to UNC on April 11. And, even now, he continues to set lofty goals for himself.
"I pushed myself a lot," Smith said. "It's not that I felt like I was going to get a scholarship (offer), but I felt like I did everything I had to do – as far as the weight room, in the classroom and on the field. Now I feel like I'm where I want to be to get to the next level after that. So I can prepare even more than I'm doing now to get to the NFL."
But Carolina is the next step, and Smith's track record demonstrates he's not about to look ahead. Expected to play either safety or outside linebacker in college, Smith remains grounded in his thinking and expectations.
As he's done that throughout his life; Smith's going to take one step at a time. First, he wants to help lead a talent-laden Hornets squad into the playoffs and beyond. Then, he'll shift gears and focus on a collegiate career.
And while he plans to take a couple more visits, in his mind he's going to Carolina.
"Everybody I talk to says UNC has a pretty good program," Smith said. "I haven't met anybody on the campus that has said, ‘Hey, you don't want to go to Carolina. You might want to go to Wake Forest or somewhere like that.'
"They have a good facility, it's a good campus and I like the people there."
With things falling right into place for her son, rest assured Princess is swimming with pride; while Jonathan prepares himself for a successful life in professional football or one of many other promising endeavors achievable with a UNC education.
Jonathan Smith Profile