Jaxon Smith-Njigba “All In” With the Seattle Seahawks, Confident “I Can Dominate” in the NFL

By Griffin Strom on May 2, 2023 at 8:35 am
Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Most wouldn’t have expected Jaxon Smith-Njigba to be available at pick No. 20 in the first round of the 2023 NFL draft, but when the Seattle Seahawks selected him, the former Buckeye was still the first wide receiver off the board.

While Smith-Njigba was honored to earn that distinction, it didn’t weigh on his mind on draft night. More than anything, the record-setting Ohio State pass-catcher wanted to end up in a good situation with a successful organization. To that end, his small slide out of the top 15 picks may have have been beneficial.

The Seahawks made the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, including in 2022, and are fresh off a campaign in which they went 9-8 and finished with a top-10 scoring offense in the NFL. Seattle also appears to have a stable future at the quarterback position, where Geno Smith was named both the Comeback Player of the Year and Most Improved Player of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America last season.

Those are positive factors for Smith-Njigba, who called it “an honor” to be selected by Seattle and hopes to immediately “bring my style and get some wins” during his rookie year with the Seahawks.

“I'm happy. I know God always has a plan for me, so I wasn't stressing about (being the first receiver selected). Just really wanted to end up in a good spot no matter if I was the first or second or whatever receiver off the board,” Smith-Njigba said during a press conference on draft night in Kansas City. “Just wanted to land in a good spot. Good spot first and foremost. … It means everything. Sitting down with the coaches when they came to my pro day and just learning about their culture and what they stand for, same thing. Hard, gritty, about the work and about action. So I'm all in. I'm all in with this team and ready to get started, man. Happy to be a Seahawk.”

Smith-Njigba said he has paid attention to Seahawks’ head coach Pete Carroll’s career for years and that he’s eager to pick the brain of a “legendary coach” as he begins his NFL tenure. And even though Seattle returns two wideouts that caught more than 1,000 yards last season, Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf, Smith-Njigba believes he’ll be a perfect fit on the Seahawk offense.

While Smith-Njigba had most of his success at Ohio State out of the slot, he said he won’t have any trouble playing on the outside at the next level if Carroll and company ask him to do that.

“Those guys on the outside running, I think it'll be a good fit. Just having three dangerous weapons for Geno, it's gonna be awesome,” Smith-Njigba said. “I'm ready to get in the offense, it's electric and I'm an electric player. So excited to get to work. … I'm a receiver. Having that label on me of a slot guy, it's not who I am. I'm a receiver who can line up in all positions and I think you'll see that. If that's in the slot, that's OK. If that's outside, that's cool too. It don't matter, I just want to help the team win and if that's lining up in the backfield or doing anything I have to do, I'll do it.”

Smith-Njigba said the development he received during his three years in a Buckeye uniform will serve as a major feather in his cap to ease his transition to the NFL. Smith-Njibga said under wide receivers coach Brian Hartline in Columbus, his preparation at Ohio State already felt on par with what he might see at the next level.

"Them being in my ear giving me advice just gives me all the confidence in the world to compete and know that I belong in the league and I can dominate.”– JSN on advice from Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave

“I mean, I feel like we have like a pro receiver room already, especially under Brian Hartline, Coach Hartline. Just gonna take everything that I learned and bring it to the next level,” Smith-Njigba said. “The development at Ohio State is second to none, so I appreciate my time there.”

Smith-Njigba will also draw inspiration from the two former Buckeye teammates at his position that enjoyed breakout success in the NFL in 2022 after being selected as first-round draft picks. Smith-Njigba spoke with both NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave before the draft and thinks their immediate success proves he could have a similar trajectory as a rookie.

“(Their success gives me) so much confidence. Those guys are great players and seeing what they do is awesome and I have a ton of respect for them,” Smith-Njigba said. “But yeah, them being in my ear giving me advice just gives me all the confidence in the world to compete and know that I belong in the league and I can dominate.”

But Smith-Njigba knows he isn’t guaranteed success just because of his previous accomplishments and those of his peers. Smith-Njigba said overcoming a season in which he hardly played due to a hamstring injury will be the biggest hurdle, given that he had never previously gone through a similar situation. But he said his commitment and work ethic will be evident as soon as he gets into the Seahawk facilities.

“I'm about work and putting the work in the offseason. I think my overall game can improve and I think it will. I mean the ceiling, there's no ceiling as far as I know,” Smith-Njigba said. “I just like putting the work in, trying to improve my overall game. … Biggest challenge is just not playing. It's my first time missing games, missing practice and not really being there for my guys. But I learned a lot, and I thank God for him giving me the opportunity because I'm just coming in hungry as ever, ready to go on the field and line it up. So I actually appreciate it, and I'm blessed to still be in this position. And that's what I took away from it.”

As for anything else he wants fans to know about him before he officially lines up in a Seahawk jersey, Smith-Njigba is more inclined to show it on the field than to discuss it ahead of time.

“You don't need to know, you just need to watch and you'll learn,” Smith-Njigba said.

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