Dora's Smoot wreaks havoc with Fairfield
Mountain Eagle Story by Brian Hale
Photo by Jeff Johnsey
DORA — For the past two seasons, quarterbacks and offensive coordinators facing the Dora Bulldogs have had a top concern each week — where is A.J. Smoot going to be when the ball is snapped?
Smoot, for his part, has done plenty to make such concerns viable — disrupting offensive plans, harassing quarterbacks and causing chaos in the opposition’s backfield. After securing a finalist spot for the Class 4A Lineman of the Year award last season, as well as being named to the Class 4A All-State Team, the defensive end is on par to have another extraordinary year and place his name back on award lists.
Following last week’s 30-21 region victory over Fairfield, Smoot’s stats on the season are nothing less than stellar. He’s recorded 68 tackles, 23 tackles for a loss, 14 quarterback sacks, caused seven fumbles and broken up five passes in six games.
For all the havoc he causes on the field and the level of intensity he brings to each play, Smoot’s coaches describe him as a team-oriented player who quietly leads by example.
Smoot stated that his initial thoughts when a play starts is to get to the ball and set the tone for a great defensive series.
“Everything I do is for the team. Whether it’s pumping the other guys up, checking our assignments or talking with the coaches, it all boils down to getting us the best possible result on defense on every down,” Smoot said. “When a big play is made, that creates momentum — we all feed off of that, offense and defense. There’s nothing more rewarding as a defensive player to see a drive halted because one of our guys came up with a fumble or interception — it’s energy that moves over to the offense when they take the field. They’re part of our stops on defense that we make, just like we’re a part of the touchdowns they make. It’s a unified effort.”
Dora defensive coach Chavis Williams, who has been part of the staff that has worked with Smoot for three seasons, has first-hand knowledge of what talent at the collegiate and professional levels look like.
As a part of Nick Saban’s 2009 Alabama national championship team and a member of the Baltimore Ravens in the NFL, Williams has played with some of the best the NCAA and professional football has to offer. He states that Smoot’s progression in fighting off blocks, defensive awareness and technique has excelled beyond all expectations.
“He’s such an energetic guy — his instincts are so remarkable for a young player like him. The game is so natural for him, he’s a very bright football player as well,” Williams said. “I would say he’s more developed than I was when I left to go to Alabama, which speaks volumes about his potential at the next level. His future in the game is limitless — his instincts are good enough to he could play linebacker or defensive end for a program.
“One other key aspect about A.J. is character — his mind is always centered on his team. There’s been interest from colleges for him, but he doesn’t get caught up in it. All he cares about is doing his part to help the team win and the guys around him reflect that mentality.”
Smoot’s head coach, Johnny Wright, assessed his speed as the fastest at the defensive end position he’s seen at 38 years in the profession.
“He’s got a great first step, which helps him defeat a lot of blocks and has boundless energy. He plays hard and gives us leadership by the way he performs,” Wright said. “He motivates others around him to play as hard as he does and his vision for reading plays is really good. He’s exactly what a coach desires to anchor his defense.”