The future stars of Ohio State football officially begin their college careers, as standouts from all over the country put pens to their National Letters of Intent.
For a while, Jaxon Smith-Njigba felt overlooked.
The Smith-Njigba File
- Class: 2020
- Size: 6-foot-1, 188 pounds
- Pos: WR
- School: Rockwall (TX)
- Composite Rating: ★★★★
- Composite Rank: 5 (WR)
In an Ohio State recruiting class that included three other top-100 wide receivers, his name sometimes got lost in the shuffle. Julian Fleming got the notoriety at the top-ranked wideout in the cycle, Mookie Cooper stood out as an undersized slot receiver and Gee Scott Jr. has a larger profile on social media.
“You shouldn’t forget about me,” Smith-Njigba told Eleven Warriors at The Opening in July. “I had the best stats in Texas. I can’t control any of the media, the rankings – I just feel like I’m the top receiver and I don’t get much respect, but I’m out here earning people’s respect now.”
Smith-Njigba commanded respect with an outstanding senior season at Rockwall High School in Texas, and he followed that up by signing his National Letter of Intent to play for Ohio State on Wednesday.
As the No. 33 overall prospect and fifth-ranked wideout, he's a top-end four-star prospect and someone who could find himself immediately in line for playing time. To put his rise over the past few months into perspective, he was the No. 288 overall prospect and 59th-ranked receiver when he committed in November of 2018.
The early pledge came less than two months after Smith-Njigba received an offer from the Buckeyes. At the time, he said he had "been waiting on this one." He committed following an unofficial visit to Columbus.
At the time, Smith-Njigba made his decision before his recruitment went fully national. Still, he had already received scholarship offers from Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Arkansas, TCU, Texas A&M and Nebraska. In August, he made some waves by telling a reporter he had made some recent contact with Texas, but that interest never got to the point where he visited the Longhorns.
With his signing official, Smith-Njigba will join a receiver room loaded with young talent. Ohio State is the only team bringing in four top-100 wideouts.
“We’re focused on individual, of course, but we’re just focused on getting better as a group,” Smith-Njigba said in July. “You could ask any one of us who we think the best is, and we would say each other. We’re just trying to get a bond that can’t be broken.”
Along with the quartet of freshmen, Brian Hartline also returns a pair of talented sophomores – Garrett Wilson and Jameson Williams – who will collectively help replace Austin Mack, K.J. Hill and Binjimen Victor.
At 6-foot-1, 188 pounds, Smith-Njigba doesn't have overwhelming size, but he plays faster than his 4.59-second 40-yard-dash time indicates, giving him a quality all-around game. He plans to graduate early and enroll at Ohio State in January.
At Rockwall, Smith-Njigba turned in one of the best careers by any wide receiver in Texas history. He racked up 5,366 career passing yards, the second-most in state history, and caught 65 touchdowns, the third-most in the history of Texas. Seemingly every single week this fall, Smith-Njigba made highlight receptions (check here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).
Nobody forgets about him now. Not after what was inarguably the most impressive senior season among all 2020 Ohio State commits.