Running back James Smiley is one of the best players from the Tampa, FL area in the Class of 2022.
Smiley has showcased his skills for FBU Tampa the last two years.
Youth1 spoke to coach Chuck McLeod and Smiley himself to learn a little more about the standout athlete.
Name: James Smiley
Position: RB (Also DE)
Weight: 189 pounds
Youth League teams: Westchase Colts TBYFL, Fair Oaks Rattlers
Recognition: Tampa FBU 6th (All-Tournament selection) and 7th grade
Future Stars Game: Florida All Stars 6th grade MVP
Suncoast Select All Stars: West All Stars RB
What the recognition means to him: "I'm taking it one step at a time. Those awards aren't my main thing. My thing is to be the top power back in the Class of 2022 and attend Florida State. Last year I met Dalvin Cook and Jimbo Fisher while at FSU middle school camp. If not there then Alabama because both of my parents have roots there."
What he likes about playing football: "Being a physically imposing runner and running through contact."
What playing football has taught him: "Football isn't for everyone. Life is bigger than football and there are many options to choose from. Make a choice to do something that will make you happy."
Favorite football memory: "My JV year for the Fair Oaks Rattlers, we had a good team and a lot of my best friends were on that team such as Zay Zay, Isaiah and Anthony. Anthony was our linebacker and a good fullback, we called him "fat". He was a hitter
His approach to being a good teammate: "I don't like to get too hyped up. I get quiet as the game gets closer. It's like I can see what I'm going to do before I do it when I'm quiet. It's like when I make a big play my team gets hyped up and so I like to see them laughing and hyped up."
What he’s learned from his coaches: "My uncle has coached me a lot. He told me that he will never let an opportunity pass me and my brother by, but we have to be ready when it comes. My coach Chuck McCleod helped me step my game up cause he is always fair with me and gives me another chance when I make a mistake. He always looks out for me with cleats and gear so I always feel like a special player to him. Coach Will Dunning at Fair Oaks was the first coach to put me at running back when I was 5 or 6 on his flag team. I learned how to run from them."
Favorite player: "Adrian Peterson, because he runs aggressive, he has little league tape, and he has always been good."
His mindset at running back: "A mix of nervousness and confidence. Every play is a [adrenaline] rush, then we do it again. If my line holds then I know the linebacker is in trouble."
Favorite subject: "History because it’s all about reading and it’s the foundation to everything."
Favorite college: Florida State
His goals on and off the field: "To be a leader on the field and off. I have three younger brothers. To do well in academics because there are a lot of good football players, but not many scholar athletes."
Chuck McLeod - Coached Smith for two years at the Westchase Colts of FYD Pop Warner
And with FBU Tampa
Best qualities as a running back: "He's a big back that has speed so he's really hard to bring down. He’s got great hands for a back his size."
Football IQ: "The best example I have of that was during 7v7 season in 2016 at the pylon tournament in Orlando. We were the only 5th/6th grade team there so of course we played in the 7t/8th grade division. We moved James to free safety and he made plays like he'd played there all year. There aren't a whole lot of kids who can handle something like that."
Leadership abilities: "He's not a loud guy so vocally leading is not his thing. He makes plays at critical times. Versus Broward County in FBU we were down and turned the ball over to them. The whole team’s morale was down. Next play he comes off the edge and forces a fumble scoops it up and scores. We ended up losing but that got us back in one of the best games of the tournament."
His big-play ability: He's a big time player. He's been a pleasure for us to coach over the last few years. The best compliment I can give you is that he's the most recruited kid his age in town. He's got coaches, athletic directors and even league Vice Presidents recruiting him to their organization right now. He's a soft spoken young man who is really blossoming into a fine young man.
Areas of improvement: "I think sometimes he forgets just how big he is. When he squares his shoulders towards the end zone people move out of the way. We are trying to get him to do that he can get to where he wants to go a lot faster running straight ahead. Of course when game time rolls around he turns the corner and runs by everyone and proves us wrong. As a staff we need to work on ways to get him the ball via pass. I think that's the bigger issue. As coaches we need to remember how good he is in space, and as a receiver. We get caught up on his size a little too much sometimes."
Smiley’s potential: "He's as good as I've ever seen. He's by far the biggest skill guy I've coached at his age. I'm amazed by the size with the speed and hands. He can make it as far as he wants to. His biggest obstacle will be all the jokers that are chasing him around recruiting him. If he keeps his head in the books and doesn't listen to the hype or the little league agents he will make it all the way."
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