Junior wide receiver Jamill Smith may be the happiest player on the team.
“It is what I dreamed of. I always knew that I wanted to play for a college around my area,” Smith said. “Helping out my community and giving them positive role models.”
Smith played quarterback, cornerback, kick returner, and punt returner for Muncie Southside. Regular guys like us call that insane. He even held the ball for the field goal attempts. He broke school records for career passing and rushing touchdowns as he placed the Rebels on his shoulders.
Despite the statistics colleges only cared about his undersized frame. He had to walk-on to play at Ball State. Not giving the local offensive star a scholarship right way is just another scar on the Stan Parrish era, but that is history. After a red-shirt season Smith earned a scholarship in 2010 and saw plenty of action as a sophomore in Lembo’s first season. He recorded 32 receptions and three touchdowns receiving while averaging 24.2 yards per kick return.
“Its been with me my whole life being the smallest on every team I was on,” Smith said. “So I’ve just been using it to my advantage trying to prove people wrong.”
Smith has added seven pounds in the offseason to get up 145 pounds. While at 138 pounds Smith was told he was the smallest player in all of the FBS a year ago.
Maybe he still is?
No matter what his dimensions are Smith can benefit Ball State tremendously by bridging the gap between the school and the Muncie community.
“There is no relationship between Muncie and Ball State,” Smith said “In the future that is what we are trying to do. Get the community to all of our games and support all of Ball State athletics.”
As a Muncie outsider I am still trying to learn the relationship between Ball State and Muncie. I was spoiled being born in Lexington, Kentucky. I assumed that all college towns were passionate about their school the way Lexington is about its Cats. I just thought Muncie would be like that on a smaller scale.
Boy was I wrong when I came to campus as a freshman. The only people who cared about Ball State are alumni and students. To make matters worse, most of Ball State’s student body and alums are teachers who view college athletics as a headache on the education system.
Ball State faculty typically live in the Yorktown and Delta school districts. Some even commute from Indianapolis. If you are Muncie Central and Muncie Southside how do you not take offense to Ball State professors saying they would rather waste gas and hours a week commuting from counties away than live in your city?
Ball State wonders why Muncie does not come out to its events or why the Star Press is not their buddy? If I grew up in Muncie would I want to read positive articles in the paper about Ball State? The school has enough PR and advertising campaigns doing that for them. I guess reading negative press on the school would be a form of “sticking it to the man” so to speak.
The school has to boast its achievements to attract students, but over time flaunting becomes highly annoying to those in Muncie. Especially when Muncie has lost the things it used to flaunt like the auto industry and the Ball Corporation.
There is plenty to this relationship that I do not understand, but I do know it will take more time to heal old wounds than most are willing to admit.
Lembo ended the insulting practice of having the team stay in Noblesville on the eve before home games. He has also been extremely open to the community.
But that is just a start, nothing more; like adding an ex-girlfriend on Facebook in an attempt to rekindle the relationship.
This is where Smith comes into play.
If Muncie and Delaware County can not get excited about their small soldier playing at Scheumann Stadium than there is little hope.
“When I was in high school we came to every [Ball State] game,” Smith said. “I know [friends] look at me and say ‘Jamill is playing so we should go watch it.’”
My friends at a local church can only name three Ball State players. Keith Wenning and Kelly Page are common, but the name I hear the most is Smith. A friend of mine who played on the Yorktown football team boasted about sacking Smith to give Yorktown a win over Southside years ago.
He gave his body to Muncie Southside playing every reasonable position. Now he is trying to give those fans a reason to come back to Ball State.
It will not be easy. Smith has to perform well on the field. If bigger receivers take snaps away from him than nothing will change. Heck, if that happens than relations could get worse.
Delta quarterback Ozzie Mann can have the same chance to improve relations in the future but he has to wait for Wenning to graduate.
Smith is simply everything a Ball State fan can ask for. Hard working, determined, intelligent, a speed king, and by God he is local.
“My end goal is make Ball State and Muncie a connection and get Ball State back to where it was ,” Smith said.
Muncie will be watching Smith and may the odds be ever in his favor.