By LARRY VAUGHT
It was not the way that the University of Kentucky football coaching staff wanted to offer Boyle County sophomore kicker Jackson Smith a scholarship, but it was the only way it could be done now.
Special teams coach Louie Matsakis called Andy Smith, Jackson’s father, on Tuesday and asked if the player could call him (NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from calling sophomores directly (Smith is a rising junior).
“I have been talking to (UK All-American punter) Max Duffy and thought UK was going to offer,” said Andy Smith, a former all-SEC punter at Kentucky. “So Jackson called him and coach Matsakis told him (head coach Mark) Stoops had been on him to offer you, so we are.
“Coach emphasized they really wanted to do it the right way but they could not bring him to campus now to offer him a scholarship in person. However, they wanted to be the first one to offer and told him they felt like he was their future kicker and maybe punter, too. Jackson was fired up and excited.”
Jackson Smith has been ranked as one of the top kickers/punters in his class for several years and had been wondering when his first scholarship offer might come.
“I think as excited as he was, more than anything he was relieved. It took a little pressure off his shoulders,” Andy Smith said. “This was going to be a huge summer for him as far as camps and getting more exposure.”
The Smiths planned to attend camps at LSU, Florida, West Virginia and Kentucky — and probably more — before COVID-19 shut down campus activities nationwide. He went to camps at Alabama, Florida, Ohio State and Kentucky in the summer of 2019.
“It’s not just him, but all kids getting recruited in every sport right now are kind of bummed,” Andy Smith said. “Jackson had been really work hard in the offseason to get ready for those camps to show what he could do and then they all got cancelled.
“But now he has that first offer and sometimes they kind of snowball after that with other schools offering. I would say more than anything, though, he is super motivated. We went and worked out last night at 11 o’clock after he got the offer.”
He earned all-state first-team honors both as a punter and kicker last season. He made a state-best 88 extra points in 90 attempts, including a 40-yard kick after penalties backed up Boyle. He also went a perfect 8-8 on field goal tries..
“I am proud of him and his work ethic,” Andy Smith said. “A lot can happen in the next two years but it’s good to get a SEC offer and to have it from my alma mater.
“It’s been a tough few months. Everything literally shut down in March. We have been lifting, working out together, doing little things that hopefully will help set him apart from others. I have worked a lot individually with him on drills and getting more explosive. He’s maturing physically. He’s 16 and his body is getting strong.
“Nobody has really ever experienced anything like this and it will show what your work ethic is like when there is not a coach pushing you. I am trying to make sure he is not laying around and not doing anything but getting that Kentucky offer really energized him so getting him motivated won’t be a problem even though it seldom has been.”