Today is July 16, 2019, which means we are only just 46 days away from the Virginia Tech Hokies opening the college football season at Boston College. Yesterday, we profiled former defensive end Nekos Brown, who played for the Hokies from 2006-09.
For No. 46, we go back to the late 90s and focus on former starting linebacker, Jamel Smith. Smith arrived at Virginia Tech in 1995 as three-star recruit from Spring Valley High in Columbia, S.C. The 6’2”, 220-pound Smith chose the Hokies over Clemson.
After a redshirt season, Smith first saw action in 1996 and immediately made an impact. He played in 10 games, mostly on special teams and recorded a total of 21 tackles, including a sack. He did start one game at linebacker in 1996.
In 1997, Smith moved into the starting lineup and never looked back. He started 10 of 11 games, finishing second on the team in tackles. He also recorded 9 TFLs and one sack. He ended up being the prototype linebacker for Bud Foster with his sideline-to-sideline speed and playmaking ability.
As a junior in 1998, Smith again started 10 of 11 games, leading the Hokies in tackles with 99, recorded nine TFLs and three sacks. He also picked off two passes and had 98 return yards. In addition to his two picks, Smith proved to be a disruptor in the passing game, defending seven passes and also give pass breakups. Smith also recorded nine quarterback hits.
We’ve covered many different Hokies from that special 1999 team on our countdown and Smith is another. Smith again led the Hokies in tackles with 89 stops, including 52 solo, eight TFLs and one sack. He also broke up five passes. At the end of the season, he was named as a first-team All-Big East selection and second-team All-American. He was also a finalist for the Butkus Award. On the greatest team in Virginia Tech history, Smith played a huge role.
After his time in Blacksburg ended, Smith signed as an undrafted free agent with the New England Patriots. He would then spend three seasons with the Rhein Fire in NFL Europe. After his playing career ended, Smith returned to his high school alma mater where he coached for four seasons. In 2008, he returned to Virginia Tech as a graduate assistant for two seasons before taking his first full-time coaching role as the defensive line coach at Coastal Carolina.
He spent two seasons with Coastal Carolina and then returned to the high school ranks at Wando High in Mount Pleasant, S.C., where he was named defensive coordinator in addition to his duties as a physical education teacher and strength coach where he remains today.
Smith was an outstanding player for the Hokies who sometimes gets lost in the mix due to the amount of iconic players on that 1999 team. Make no mistake, Smith was an essential part of that team and deserves his spot in Virginia Tech history.