Jaxon Smith-Njigba didn’t know which colleges would come calling, only that if he put in the work, the results would follow.
That’s just the way he was raised.
A prolific receiver out of Rockwall High School in Rockwall, Texas, Smith-Njigba caught 83 passes for 1,328 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore in 2017. That performance put him on the radar of plenty of teams.
Ohio State was one of those programs watching, and then early in his junior season last September they extended a scholarship offer.
Smith-Njigba was excited, but not surprised.
After all, this was what he had been working for.
His family was also excited, but they didn’t yet know just how serious Smith-Njigba was about OSU and how much he was already envisioning himself playing there.
Six weeks after the offer, he and mother made the trip to Ohio State for an unofficial visit. The Buckeyes were hosting Nebraska.
He didn’t go with the plan of committing on the visit, but he also didn’t go planning to wait.
“I went there being open-minded about it,” Smith-Njigba told The-Ozone. “I went and watched the game, saw everything, talked to the coaches, and that night I told myself, ‘I could see myself being a Buckeye. Everything is set up for me to win here and be successful. There’s no reason to wait. I want to be a Buckeye.’ And so I made it happen.”
After praying on it and then sleeping on it, he committed to receivers coach Brian Hartline the next day.
Hartline had been Ohio State’s receivers coach for a little over three months by that point, but their relationship grows stronger every single day.
“We talk almost every day,” Smith-Njigba said. “I already love the man. He’s a great guy. Family man. Just talking to the players, he really looks out for everybody on and off the field. I sat down with a couple of receivers and they told me that he’s going to push you to be the best. The guys they have, it’s a great group of receivers. They are unselfish and they’ve told me what it takes to be a great receiver there. It’s going to be great playing for Coach Hartline.”
Hartline wasn’t the only draw, however. The program as a whole drew Smith-Njigba in, and even Urban Meyer’s retirement one month later wasn’t enough to derail the plan.
“I just thought that, you know, Coach Meyer is a legendary coach and he’s done a lot of great things for this program, but I honestly thought that Ohio State is always going to be Ohio State – a winning program at the top of the nation,” he said. “I knew that the train would keep moving with Ohio State.”
It also didn’t hurt that he watched the Buckeyes throw for more yards than they had ever done in the history of the program.
For a wide receiver, that kind of offense can be a draw all by itself.
“Oh, it’s unbelievable,” he said. “As a wide receiver, it’s a dream to play in that offense. Who wouldn’t want to get multiple balls a game in that high-tempo offense? It’s amazing. It’s just a dream come true to play in an offense like that.”
So what made this particular dream a reality?
“I feel like my work ethic, if I think about something and I want it, I’m going to work hard for it,” he said. “I’m a hard worker and come from a middle class, blue collar family. My dad and my family, we have to work for everything that we get. So I just come in with that mentality.”
As a receiver, Jaxon Smith-Njigba could end up inside or outside. Hartline and Buckeye head coach Ryan Day believe he can excel at either spot. They’ll see where he plays best and is needed most when he arrives and he’ll do whatever he can to make his mark.
But when he does arrive, don’t expect too much chatter.
“They’re going to get a hard worker,” he said. “I’m not really a big talker. I just put my head down and I work. I’m going to ask questions and just try to be the best player I can be for this team, for this program, and for the state of Ohio.”