BUFORD — In football, most people focus on how well the quarterback, receivers and running backs are playing. The touchdowns and the usual measure of a successful offense are attributed to those positions. No offense in the sport would be able to put points on the board without the silent warriors, the offensive linemen.
Offensive line coach Matt Winslette says the offensive line unit likes to “quietly be the reason why.” He explains, “The respect and trust we earn from the players we protect and score touchdowns is all the praise we ever need.”
Buford has traditionally put up a solid offensive line unit year after year. Players like Ohio State’s Harry Miller and Alabama’s Seth McLaughlin were leaders among their teammates. Buford senior Jacob Smith looked up to those two among others, learned from them and now uses the knowledge and experience gained to be a leader on the team.
“Jacob Smith is a ‘Big Picture’ guy. He understands how hard it is to build a great offensive line unit and his leadership thus far tells me he is not satisfied with 2019 and has taken on the role of the alpha as our young lineman mature,” Coach Winslette says.
There is an intensity to Smith, who came to Buford High School from the Forsyth County School system in the ninth grade. The 6’ 3½”, 320-pound lineman says he plays as if he has a chip on his shoulder; like he has something to prove. He is out to show the world that he can be just as great as the legends of the O-line that came before him.
Buford head coach Bryant Appling and his staff preach values referred to as the “intangibles.” Values such as working hard, making sure responsibilities are handled and being leaders among peers are drilled into the players. Smith embodies the values and traditions that represent the kelly green and gold.
Smith has been an offensive lineman for 10 years and has always been on the lookout for ways to improve his game. He had heard that wrestling was the best way for a football player to improve in their skillset, so he decided to join Buford’s wrestling team in the football offseason. He says he has seen just how much he has improved since he started wrestling years ago.
“Wrestling is hands down the hardest sport,” Smith says. “You wrestle for six minutes straight with only yourself to rely on. It’s physically and mentally tough.”
When watching game film of Smith, in every offensive play, he can be seen visually locking onto his intended target. He reaches his target with explosiveness, locks on and will not be shaken loose. It was wrestling that taught Smith how to balance better, keep a low center of gravity and how to leverage his body to gain the upper hand. Smith says wrestling has also made him tougher and a better problem solver.
Multiple offers from Division I colleges were extended to Smith. Colleges like Harvard, Cornell, Maryland, Fordham and East Carolina offered, but it was Army that won Smith’s commitment in the end. Smith says that Army offered an environment and culture like Buford’s. A culture built off of toughness and brotherhood. “The opportunity and honor to serve our country also played a major factor in my decision to commit to Army,” Smith said.
Buford is a family. The coaches care about and develop not only the athlete but the person as well. That level of devotion and commitment comes from not only the coaches but from the players, the staff at the school and the larger Buford community. Smith says he would not be the person and player he is today without Buford. He is more than ready to represent the “B” this season and continue Buford’s winning legacy.