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  • Austin Candor | The Journal Gazette Brothers Rod Smith, left, and Jaylon Smith, who both play for the NFL's Dallas Cowboys, were impressed with the kids' energy despite the poor weather Friday during their football camp at Saint Francis.

Saturday, July 08, 2017 1:00 am

NFL brothers have gift for city

Smiths share their success with first youth camp in area

Austin Candor | The Journal Gazette

Amare Bohde, 11, refused to crack a smile Friday as he approached Dallas Cowboys linebacker and Bishop Luers graduate Jaylon Smith after the Smith Brothers Earn Your Stripes Football Camp at Saint Francis.

When Jaylon asked what was wrong, Amare's mother, Araceli, stepped in to take the blame.

“He's mad at me. I was late in getting him here,” Araceli said.

That drew a laugh from Jaylon.

“Why didn't you tell me? I'd have picked him up!” Jaylon said jokingly, as he posed with Amare for a photo. “You're going to have to make it up to him, ice cream or something.”

Bohde was one of more than 300 kids ages 7-13 at Bishop D'Arcy Stadium to see Jaylon and his brother and Cowboys teammate Rod partner with AWP Sports for their first football camp in their hometown.

The brothers were local high school stars; Jaylon, who played at Bishop Luers, was named Mr. Football in 2012 and Rod rushed for 63 touchdowns and more than 6,000 yards for Harding.

“For me to be a NFL player and coming from the city of Fort Wayne, Indiana, it's just something I've always wanted to do, always wanted to give back,” Rod said.

Jaylon and Rod led the kids in defensive, offensive and performance drills for nearly two hours before rain and lightning cut the day short.

Despite the poor weather, Rod was impressed with the kids' energy, something that reminded him of his younger days when he attended the local football camp of Hall of Famer Rod Woodson.

“The kids loved it. They came out here and were competing, smiling, joking around,” the 25-year old Rod Smith said. “But they were getting in good work. They were asking questions, they were really trying to learn. I could tell they were eager to develop themselves.”

Likewise, the two brothers left a positive impression on the younger generation.

“Even though I didn't work with them (during the camp), it was really cool to see them in person,” said 11-year old Dallas Cowboys fan TJ Musser, who enjoyed the “hyped-up” attitude the Smith brothers carried throughout the morning.

A question on the minds of many Cowboys fans regards Jaylon's left knee. The 22-year old tore his ACL and LCL as a senior at Notre Dame on New Year's Day in 2016 during the Fiesta Bowl loss against Ohio State. Having been selected by the Cowboys in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Jaylon is eager to play his first official season.

“I'm good. I feel great, lovely,” Jaylon said.

As both brothers know, injuries are among the many challenges on players' journeys to the NFL.

“(The camp's) about earning your stripes, it's about literally putting that work in, something we've had to do our entire lives,” Jaylon said. “We want to instill that in these kids and let them know that, yes, the game of football and life, it's fun, but it's also about working for what you want to accomplish in life.”

With an endless love for the Fort Wayne community, the Smith brothers are just getting started as they hope for a healthy season together along with plenty of sunshine for their return to host next summer's camp.

acandor@jg.net