Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith dances with students from the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne Active Science after-school program during a celebration at the Jackson R. Lehman Family YMCA on Friday.
Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith dances with students from the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne after school program during a celebration of the completion of the Active Science program at the Jackson R. Lehman Family YMCA on Friday.
Saturday, June 30, 2018 1:00 am
A Cowboy plays with kids
Linebacker and Luers grad at YMCA program's end-of-year celebration
DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette
If you go
What: Smith Brothers Earn Your Stripes Football Camp
Where: Saint Francis
Who: Free to kids ages 7-13
Registration: 8 a.m.; camp from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Swipe has been a part of Jaylon Smith's football personality since his sophomore year of high school at Bishop Luers. After a sack or a tackle for loss, the Dallas Cowboys linebacker takes several quick steps and then swipes his right hand along the ground like he's bowling.
On Friday, the Fort Wayne native and former Notre Dame standout got to teach a group of excited kids how to do the Swipe.
Groups of three kids at a time rushed at Smith, trying, with varying degrees of success, to mimic his signature move, while he offered encouragement.
The spectacle was part of Smith's involvement in the Active Science with Jaylon Smith program, which had its end-of-year celebration Friday at the Jackson R. Lehman Family YMCA. Smith ate lunch with a select group of the kids who had done especially well in the program and then joined the outdoor activities, sweating in the blistering heat, but wearing a broad smile all the while.
Active Science with Jaylon Smith is an after-school program that teaches kids to get active in the hope of fighting childhood obesity.
Smith said he's happy to participate in the program after going to the YMCA “every single day” as a kid himself.
“I'll talk to (the kids) about having a clear-eyed view, first and foremost,” Smith said. “A focused vision, determined belief. Just really putting your mind to whatever you want to accomplish and going after it. But in life, a lot of times, our years can be prolonged when we're healthy, so that's the focus today.”
There were close to 550 kids on hand to hear Smith speak and participate in the activities with him.
In addition to giving lessons in the Swipe, the linebacker gleefully showed off his dance moves to a large group of the kids and invited them to do the same.
Many of the kids responded by enthusiastically performing the Floss, a popular dance that involves swinging both arms back and forth.
Before the activities began, Smith addressed the crowd.
“I got one rule,” he said. “I need everybody to give all you got today, OK? Can you all do that for me? Let's do it.”
The local Active Science program is the only one to partner with a pro athlete. Lindsey Cook, a school coordinator with the program, was at the YMCA on Friday to watch the end-of-year celebration with Smith. She said that having someone of Smith's stature the kids can look up to helps the program's message resonate.
“He goes into the gym with the kids and actually does the activity with them,” Cook said. “He's being part of the activity, not just standing and watching it, but actually involving himself with the kids. Which then makes them work harder because that's the competition that he's trying to get them to go a little bit faster and challenge them to do a little bit more.”
Smith, 23, is entering his third season with the Dallas Cowboys. After sitting out his rookie season with a knee injury suffered in his final game at Notre Dame, Smith emerged as a force for the Cowboys in 2017. He played in all 16 games, starting six, and totaled 81 tackles and a sack.
He said he's ready for a bigger role on the Dallas defense this season and will begin gearing up for the 2018 campaign July 26, when Cowboys training camp begins in Oxnard, California.
Before that, however, Smith will remain in Fort Wayne for at least another week, long enough to take part in the football camp he hosts with his brother, Rod, who plays running back for the Cowboys.
On Friday, Smith said he wanted to make sure that the kids at the YMCA and at his camp take time to enjoy being kids.
“Time is one of our biggest assets,” he said of the message he'd have for the kids. “Take advantage of it. Embrace being a kid, because you can never get it back.”