If there was a metaphor to the story of Samson in the National Football League, it would have to be Jason Smith.
Samson was the biblical character who lost his strength after Delilah cut his hair.
In similar fashion, Smith, a hulking 6,5″, 310-lb. offensive tackle, lost his swagger on the field after he sustained concussions and various injuries.
He was a shadow of his old self with the Baylor Bears when he became the first non-special teams player to earn All-America honors.
Sadly, Jason Smith’s current ordeals with the lingering and destructive post-career effects of concussions are just a small part of a much bigger picture.
Jason Kyle Smith was born to parents Duane and Linda in Dallas, TX on April 30, 1986.
When Smith was a young boy, he accompanied his grandmother whenever she worked at a rodeo concession stand, per Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg.
Smith took on several odd jobs as a youngster. According to Eisenberg, he worked the gate and also collected garbage.
As a youngster, Jason Smith already knew some of life’s harshest realities.
“I had a want for a different life and I got exposed to it,” Smith told Eisenberg in April 2019. “It was intriguing to me.”
When Smith was a teenager, he set up a lawn-mowing service.
Smith attended W.T. White High School, a District 10-5A school, in Dallas.
Despite attending school on a full-time basis, Jason Smith managed to mow lawns, work a second part-time job at a pet store, and play both football and basketball, per Eisenberg.
He earned all-district honors as an offensive tackle during his sophomore and junior seasons with the W.T. White Longhorns.
Smith was a two-time MVP of the offensive line.
Longhorn’s head football coach Mike Zuffuto named Smith team captain for his senior season.
The team’s new offensive coordinator also moved Smith to tight end.
Back then, Jason Smith wasn’t a highly-touted recruit. Despite his skills as an offensive lineman, not a single coach offered him a scholarship during his senior season, per Eisenberg.
One factor going against Smith was his size: no Division I football program was willing to risk signing a 220-lb. offensive lineman.
However, a skilled 220-lb. tight end could potentially get the attention of several football programs.
The ploy worked: the Kansas State Wildcats, Kansas Jayhawks, Houston Cougars, and Baylor Bears all set their sights on Smith.
Smith, the converted tight end, caught seven receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown as a senior.
Smith eventually earned all-district honors in 2003.
He also participated in the 2004 Coca-Cola High School Football All-Star Game.
Another college hall of fame honor goes to a W. T. White alumnus*. Congratulations, Jason Smith who was drafted by the Rams with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. @Kickslide @BUFootball @CoachMcGuire_BU @WTWRecruiting @WTWHighSchool @ClubWtw #jasonsmith @NFL pic.twitter.com/nqElJn8hfO
— W.T. White Longhorns (@WTWLonghorns) May 20, 2020
Despite the interest he drew from Kansas State and Kansas, Smith decided to remain in-state for his college football career.
He committed to the Baylor Bears as a tight end on October 20, 2003.
Baylor’s Waco campus is just 100 miles south of Dallas.
Smith made his official visit to Baylor four days after making his verbal commitment. He signed his letter of intent to Baylor on February 4, 2004.
Even though Smith signed as a tight end, the W.T. White Longhorns coaching staff believed he was better suited at offensive tackle.
In order to accomplish this goal, the skinny, 220-lb. Smith needed to bulk up, gorge on muscle-building protein, and hit the weights like a madman.
Longhorns assistant football coach Billy Thompson told Yahoo! Sports Smith had what it took:
“He rarely got three square meals a day growing up, so I knew if he got around a training table, he could definitely blow up.”
“He was a skinny kid in high school, but he always had the frame.”
Not only would Jason Smith blow up, but he would also become an impenetrable force on the Baylor Bears’ offensive line during his college days.
College Days With The Baylor Bears
Jason Smith majored in education at Baylor University.
After redshirting his freshman year, Smith started his college football career as a Baylor Bears tight end in the 2005 NCAA season.
Smith suited up in all eleven games, started eight, and caught six passes for 70 yards and a touchdown – an average of 11.7 yards per reception.
He achieved two milestones in the Bears’ season-opening 28-23 victory over the SMU Mustangs on September 3, 2005.
Smith recorded a career-best 31-yard reception during the game.
He also caught a two-point conversion pass in the third quarter to knot the count at 14 apiece.
Smith scored the only touchdown of his college football career – a two-yard pass from Bears quarterback Shawn Bell – in a 37-30 road loss to the Oklahoma Sooners on October 22, 2005.
Baylor coaches selected redshirt freshman Jason Smith as the Bears’ Most Improved Player in 2005, per the university’s official athletics website.
The Bears won just five of eleven games in Guy Morriss’ third year at the helm.
It was the most number of wins Morriss won during his five-year tenure as Bears head football coach.
At the end of Smith’s redshirt freshman year, Baylor’s eleven-year bowl drought continued.
When the 6’5″ Smith reported for his redshirt sophomore campaign in 2006, he had already bulked up to 298 lbs.
Morriss promptly moved the hulking Smith to offensive tackle, a position he played when he was a high school sophomore and junior.
Smith started all of the Bears’ 12 games as a right tackle in the 2006 NCAA season.
With Smith holding off edge rushers, Baylor was a middle-of-the-pack offensive team.
The Bears’ 23.6 points per game ranked them 59th in the nation in 2006.
Smith helped protect Bears quarterback Shawn Bell, who threw for 2,582 yards and 19 touchdowns in eleven appearances.
Smith also helped open up holes for lead running back Paul Mosley, who rushed for 479 yards and six touchdowns in eleven games.
Baylor’s football team continued to stink up the joint.
The Bears won just four of twelve games in the 2006 NCAA season.
Despite the Bears’ woes on the gridiron, Jason Smith broke out during his redshirt junior campaign in 2007.
Unfortunately, Smith’s season started on a sour note.
He sustained a right MCL strain in the Bears’ season-opening 27-0 shutout loss to the 22nd-ranked TCU Horned Frogs on September 1, 2007.
The injury forced Smith to sit out the next three games.
Smith returned to the starting lineup in Baylor’s back-to-back losses to the Texas A&M Aggies and Colorado Buffaloes.
Smith suffered a double whammy in the 43-23 loss to the Buffaloes on October 6, 2007: the team lost its second straight game and he re-injured his right knee.
He sat out the next two games against the Kansas Jayhawks – one of the four teams that showed interest in him during his high school days – and Texas Longhorns.
Smith eventually started the Bears’ final four games of the 2007 NCAA season.
Despite missing five games due to a right knee injury, Jason Smith served notice he was one of the best offensive linemen in the Big 12.
Smith helped the Bears’ offensive line give up just twenty-one sacks in 2007. It was the fewest the team had yielded in twelve years, per BaylorBears.com.
Plus, The Associated Press bestowed honorable mention All-Big 12 honors to Smith at the end of his redshirt junior season.
Things were looking up for Jason Smith in the classroom as well.
He graduated from the Baylor Leadership Academy and earned a 4.00 grade-point average during the spring term in 2007.
Smith made it to the Spring Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll selection for getting a perfect GPA, per Baylor’s official athletics website.
While Smith exceeded expectations in athletics and academics, the Bears continued to struggle on the football field.
Baylor won just three of 12 games in the 2007 NCAA season.
That had been the trend of Baylor Bears football in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It continued during Jason Smith’s heyday as a dominant offensive tackle.
To nobody’s surprise, the university dismissed Morriss at the end of the 2007 NCAA campaign.
Former Houston Cougars head football coach Art Briles – the man who helped recruit dual-threat quarterback Robert Griffin III to Baylor – replaced him.
For his part, Smith, who earned his bachelor’s degree in May 2008, considered skipping his redshirt senior season at Baylor so he could declare for the 2008 NFL Draft.
According to Yahoo! Sports, Briles asked Smith to reconsider: he could work in a ranch if he left a year early or purchase his own ranch in the future.
Briles stressed Smith could only achieve the latter goal if he stayed so he could become an elite offensive lineman and increase his draft stock.
Smith decided to stay in Waco. Ironically, Briles’ prediction of Smith owning a ranch would eventually come true several years later.
While the Bears still stunk up the joint with a 4-8 win-loss record in Briles’ first year calling the shots, Baylor’s offense – specifically its running game – reached new heights in the 2008 NCAA season.
The reason: stellar offensive line play.
With Smith and his fellow offensive linemen opening up holes for freshman quarterback sensation Robert Griffin III and running back Jay Finley, the Bears ran for 2,349 yards in 2008.
That gaudy total represented a whopping 251 percent increase from the team’s 934 rushing yards in 2007, per BaylorBears.com.
It was also the highest yardage total the Bears racked up on the ground in twenty-seven years.
The O-line also helped Griffin and Co. score twenty-nine rushing touchdowns, the third-highest total in the program’s history.
With Griffin at quarterback and Smith protecting his blind side at left tackle, Baylor’s 28.0 points per game ranked 42nd in the nation in 2008.
It was a stark contrast to the Bears’ 18.2 points per game and 113th ranking on offense the year before.
#2 NFL Draft Pick and former Baylor Bears All-American Jason Smith joins us on the BearsIllustrated.com Report on 1660 ESPN radio 8-9 am Sat
— BearsIllustrated (@BaylorBears247) October 30, 2009
Smith, who played in all twelve games at left tackle, piled up on the accolades at the end of his redshirt senior season.
Smith was named a consensus First-Team All-Big 12 selection. He also earned First Team All-America honors from Phil Steele and the Football Writers Association of America.
Rivals.com and The Associated Press also named the twenty-two-year old Smith a Third Team All-American.
Consequently, Jason Smith became the first non-special teams All-American Baylor Bears football player since 1995.
Dave Campbell’s Texas football publication also proclaimed Smith the best lineman in the state of Texas in 2008.
Art Briles’ premonition became true: Jason Smith became an elite offensive lineman at the end of his four-year tenure on the college gridiron.
Regrettably, Smith would be anything but elite when he played in the National Football League.
Pro Football Career
Since winning Super Bowl XXXIV with guys such as Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, and Marshall Faulk leading “The Greatest Show on Turf,” the then-St. Louis Rams had slowly faded into obscurity.
Their yearly win totals decreased gradually in the ensuing years.
Simply put, the Rams were a train wreck in the late 2000s.
St. Louis won a combined five games in the 2007 and 2008 NFL seasons.
The Rams’ 1,649 rushing yards ranked them 25th in the NFL.
On the other hand, their passing offense was a tad worse: their 2,947 yards in the air ranked them 26th in the league in 2008.
St. Louis’ 4,596 all-purpose yards was third-worst in the National Football League that year.
Only the two Ohio teams – the Cleveland Browns (3,985 yards) and Cincinnati Bengals (3,926 yards) – had a tougher time moving the sticks.
Clearly, the Rams had their work cut out for them.
Enter Jason Smith, a talented offensive tackle who could help St. Louis’ sputtering offense come to life somehow.
With the second pick of the 2009 NFL draft, the St. Louis Rams select offensive tackle Jason Smith of Baylor.
— Mike Hlas (@Hlas) April 29, 2016
Smith’s draft stock increased exponentially during his redshirt senior year at Baylor.
This was evident when the St. Louis Rams made him the second overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft.
Smith became the third Baylor Bear alumnus drafted second overall in the National Football League.
He followed in the footsteps of Baltimore Colts quarterback Adrian Burk (1959) and Cleveland Rams halfback Jack Wilson (1942) as the highest drafted Bears in NFL history, per The Baylor Lariat’s Joe Holloway.
Smith’s college teammate, quarterback Robert Griffin III, would join their ranks some three years later.
When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Smith as the Rams’ pick, he was elated, per Holloway:
“To God be the glory, I’m built Ram tough.”
“Coach Briles answered the phone and allowed me to talk to Mr. (Billy) Devaney, the GM of the Rams. They took my BU pin off and put the Rams pin on my suit coat.”
Smith, who began his NFL career as a right tackle, agreed to a six-year, $61.8 million deal with $33 million in guaranteed money, per Yahoo! Sports.
Smith’s pro football career got off to a good start.
His block helped open up a hole for Rams running back Steven Jackson, who took it to the house for a 58-yard touchdown in the second regular-season game against the then-Washington Redskins.
Unfortunately, his extensive injury history in the pro ranks began in that game.
Smith sustained a knee injury in the second quarter and had to sit out the next two outings.
Smith made intermittent starts in the next three games before he started in the eighth game against the Detroit Lions.
His pass and run blocking exploits helped St. Louis clinch its lone win of the season, 17-10.
Smith’s blocking freed up Jackson for a 48-yard game in the fateful Week 11 game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Three plays later, Smith took a knee to his head, suffered a concussion, and saw his rookie season come to an abrupt end.
Rams have Jason Smith back at right tackle.
— Mike Sando (@SandoNFL) December 5, 2010
Injuries piled up and took their toll on Jason Smith in the next few seasons.
Smith took another blow to the head during practice midway through the 2010 NFL season. The hit required him to sit out a game against the Carolina Panthers.
By then, the Rams improved to 7-9 under second-year head coach Steve Spagnuolo.
On October 24, 2011 Smith took a knee from Dallas Cowboys safety Abram Elam that bent his head backward.
Smith collapsed and had to be carted off the Cowboys Stadium field.
He was diagnosed with a strained neck, per The Dallas Morning News.
The injury forced Smith to miss the next ten games.
Unfortunately, the Rams were a mess yet again, winning just two games during the 2011 NFL season.
They eventually fired Spagnuolo and the man who drafted Smith, Bill Devaney, on January 3, 2012.
Devaney told Eisenberg seven years later he noticed Smith lost his swagger on the field when the various concussions and injuries started piling up.
“Something happened to him after he got to St. Louis, and he lost his stinger,” Devaney said. “What was the cause of that? To this day, I don’t know.”
It got so bad for Smith his Rams teammates were wondering why defensive tackle Darrell Scott returned from a concussion after just a month while it took him months to recover.
— RURALRADIO147 (@RURALRADIO147) July 12, 2014
Even Spagnuolo chimed in.
He even asked Smith during practice if he was spending too much time on his ranch.
Smith assured Spagnulo his ranch “won’t be a distraction,” per Yahoo! Sports.
When new Rams head coach Jeff Fisher took over the reins in 2012, Smith was skating on thin ice.
Alas, Fisher demoted a less confident Smith to second-string status in training camp.
New Rams general manager Les Snead took it one step further: he traded Smith to the New York Jets for tackle Wayne Hunter on August 27, 2012.
Hunter cost St. Louis just $700,000. In sharp contrast, Smith was due $4 million in the 2012 NFL season.
Smith confided to Eisenberg in 2019 he would’ve done the same thing had he been in Snead’s shoes.
While Smith performed decently as a backup tackle in New York, the Jets released him in February 2013.
The New Orleans Saints signed Smith in April 2013.
Unfortunately, they released him four months later.
The Jets re-acquired Smith two days after the Saints released him.
He didn’t last long, though: Gang Green released him just eight days later.
Jason Smith had officially played his last NFL down just four years after the St. Louis Rams made him the second overall selection of the 2009 NFL Draft.
Nobody saw this coming at all.
Jason Smith has no regrets about his National Football League career coming to a premature end.
“The truth is I really had a blast in the NFL,” he told Yahoo! Sports in 2019. “If I died today, I wish everybody would say, ‘That guy played as hard as he could,’ instead of, ‘Oh, he’s a bust.'”
Regrettably, concussions took a toll on Smith when he hung up his cleats.
He told Eisenberg the concussions during his NFL playing days “really messed me up.”
Smith has to wear special glasses to cope with the lingering side effects. He cannot watch certain television programs. Flickering lights trigger unbearable headaches “that lay me out,” per Yahoo! Sports.
Baylor athletics honored Smith as a 2016 Baylor Football Legend during a game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys that year.
Smith was inducted into the Baylor Athletics Hall of Fame in 2020.
He joined a class that included former Bears quarterback Brad Goebel and wide receiver Andrew Melontree.
Today, Jason Smith resides in Fairfield, TX with his wife Dacie and their two daughters.
Smith is the owner of Twin Lakes Arena, a breeding and training ground for horses.