Born and raised in the gritty North Park neighborhood of Dallas, Texas, Jason Smith started playing football at 12 years old and knew from an early age he wanted to play in the NFL. He also knew the kinds of sacrifices he would have to make to get there. Never afraid of a lot of hard work, as a kid he would ask for lawn equipment for Christmas instead of the usual video games, and as a teenager started his own lawn service company. His high school coaches had trouble getting other kids just to show up to practice, but that was never the case with Smith.
As a 6’5” high school senior, he was recruited from Dallas’ W.T. White High School to play at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he had a history-making college career. After his freshman year, he moved from tight end to offensive tackle, where his coach saw better potential for advancement, and it worked. As a college senior he became an All-Big 12 Conference selection as well as an All-American selection, and was chosen as Baylor’s Most Valuable Player. In 2009, at the NFL Combine, he recorded the 11th fastest 40-yard dash at 5.09 seconds, sixth in the three-cone drill at 7.53 seconds, and tied for the fourth-most repetitions in the bench press at 33. Needless to say, his athletic prowess did not go unnoticed, and he became the second overall draft pick in the country that year—chosen by the St. Louis Rams. He would go on to spend four years in the National Football League, playing for the St. Louis Rams, the New York Jets and the New Orleans Saints respectively, and is currently a free agent.
Surprisingly, however, it wasn’t football that helped Smith stay out of trouble as a youth. Football was certainly where he excelled, but his true passion was team roping.
“Honestly speaking, I just like football, but I love horses and team roping,” he divulged. “I will always love and appreciate team roping because of how it changed me for the better.”
But why team roping? Smith’s grandmother, who had grown up riding, would take Jason and his older brother, Duane, to team roping events when they were kids, where he eventually met Glenn Caldwell. Caldwell took Smith under his wing from the beginning, showing him “the ropes” and a different way of life on his ranch in Terrell, Texas.
“He had a good job, nice horses, and a great facility, and he opened up his home to me and let me rope on his horses,” explained Smith, who spent as much time on the ranch as possible. “He was instrumental in enabling my desire to get out of the hood and strive to have nice horses, a nice place and to rope.”
Ultimately, it made the most sense for Smith to focus on his football career. But, in November 2009 of his rookie NFL season, he suffered a serious concussion that would leave him sidelined for the remainder of the year. While it was less than desirable for his football career, it allowed him some time to work on other areas of his life. While on leave, Smith met Darren Stoner through their church and the two formed a quick bond. Stoner, who owns the Perfect Bit, eventually introduced Jason to his daughter, Dacie, and the two were married in June of 2010. Once he had recovered from the injury, Smith continued to play in the NFL, moving with his wife to live on a ranch in New Jersey during his time on the New York Jets.
After Jason’s fourth season in the NFL, the Smiths had the opportunity to purchase the Twin Lakes Covered Arena in Fairfield, Texas, a fully operating ranching facility where they now produce barrel racing and team roping events. They also provide an equine fitness service, raise and sell barrel horses, and have teamed up with Lonestar Ropes in hopes to do even more for their equine community this year.
“Horses have become my life, and it’s really what I love to do,” Smith said. “Team roping is a part of that, and I am blessed to be able to go out there and learn from the best and just get to rope.”
Just like his football career, he humbly admits to having many influences and receiving help from countless people in order to participate in the sport he loves. From roping with Jim Bynum at this year’s Finale IX (they finished 5th in the #11 division, taking home $108,000), to receiving tips from guys like Justin Davis and Tommy Zuniga, to the major help he’s received from “Uncle” Tee Woolman, he recognizes that his success has not been achieved alone.
Smith’s experience as a professional football player has indeed translated into his roping, but it’s his faith where he gives the most credit.
“My faith in who I am, and what I am, allows me to be focused and remember what it takes to compete at a professional level, whether it’s football or team roping,” he explained.
Through hard work, determination and perseverance, Smith is now a world away from the neighborhoods through which he used to ride his bike and daydream of a better life for his family. He now has a family of his own (on January 14, 2015, Jason and Dacie welcomed their first son, Jate Kyle Smith) and knows that he’s continuously following God’s plan for his life. If you’re ever in South Texas, stop to see Jason, Dacie and Jate at the Twin Lakes Covered Arena. They’d love to show you around.