Fort Wayne’s Rod Smith celebrates Dallas Cowboys opportunity and being teammates with brother Jaylon Smith

Dallas Cowboys running back and Fort Wayne native Rod Smith exhorts participants in the Smith Brothers football game Friday at the University of Saint Francis. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
Jaylon Smith, left, and Rod Smith address young people at the Smith Brothers Earn Your Stripes Camp. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
Jaylon Smith
Rod Smith, right, talks to participants at the Smith Brothers camp Friday at Saint Francis. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
Jaylon Smith, right, demonstrates a high kick exercise Friday at the Smith Brothers camp at Saint Francis. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
Rod Smith helps steer Smith Brothers football camp participants in the right direction Friday at Saint Francis. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
Dallas Cowboys' Jaylon Smith, left, and Rod Smith celebrate a touchdown scored on a run by Rod Smith against the Washington Redskins on Nov. 30, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by the Associated Press)

Rod Smith never tires of talking about playing alongside his brother on the Dallas Cowboys, especially when they return to the familiar faces and embraces of their hometown.

It’s a great story, older brother Rod scraping and clawing to find a spot on an NFL team and then having that team, the Cowboys, turn around and draft his not-so-little brother Jaylon.

The two were in Fort Wayne on Friday to host their “Smith Brothers Earn Your Stripes” football camp at the University of Saint Francis.

Rod Smith couldn’t help by smile when asked what it was like last season when he scored a touchdown against Washington and found his brother charging full speed ahead.

“I was celebrating and I looked up and he was in the end zone,” Rod said. “I’m like, ‘I don’t know if you’re supposed to be doing that, bro. Don’t get us a penalty, we need the win.’ It was all good. It’s all about family, brotherly love on the same team. That’s something I’ll always remember and cherish.”

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Until they reached the NFL, the brothers had never been on the same team. Rod attended and played football for Harding High School before going on to Ohio State University. Jaylon, three years younger, went to Bishop Luers before starring at Notre Dame.

Jaylon’s knee and foot injury in his final Notre Dame game caused his NFL debut to be delayed a year after he was drafted in 2016, but joining forces with his brother helped that transition.

As Jaylon made his debut as Cowboys linebacker in 2017, finishing third on the team in tackles, Rod earned his time at running back during the absence of starter Ezekiel Elliott. Rod Smith is projected as the possible top backup to Elliott this year.

Rod’s numbers last season: 55 carries, 232 yards with four touchdowns and 19 receptions for 202 yards and a touchdown. He also contributes on special teams.

“I’m his No. 1 fan,” Jaylon said. “For him to have an exceptional year, I was definitely proud. He made our parents proud and made me proud. I’m happy to be his little brother and his teammate.”

Rod earned some notoriety for one touchdown celebration in which he feigned taking a nap, a playful reference to people “sleeping” on his abilities.

He hopes to take another step up in production in 2018.

“Just going out there last year and getting a taste and a lot of playing time at the running back position makes you hungry,” Rod said. “It makes you want more. I haven’t had that opportunity, really, since high school. I had a great time. It put a lot of fire in me and I’m excited about next season.”

Rod’s best statistical game came in a 30-10 win over the New York Giants on Dec. 10. He carried the ball six times for 47 yards and a touchdown and had five receptions for 113 yards, including an 81-yard touchdown reception.

Rod Smith said the opportunity to step into the lineup showed him he could thrive and allowed him to see the potential for more.

“I just want to continue to stay consistent, stay in my playbook,” he said. “I’m going into my fourth year, so the game-planning in the NFL, it’s slowing down for me. I’m out there having fun and trying to play my game, compete and execute in every chance I get.”

Both Smith brothers roamed around their camp Friday, interacting with the youngsters and displaying the sense of fun both seem to bring to their game.

While Jaylon calls himself Rod’s No. 1 fan, Rod points to his younger brother as a regular source of inspiration.

“It motivates you,” Rod said. “I see Jaylon making a play and then, whether I’m on special teams or offense, I have the urge to go make a play. It’s a win-win for our team. To have him on the same team now is a blessing.”


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