Saturday looms large for freshman phenom

first_imgThis time last year, true freshman wide receiver JuJu Smith was finishing his senior year of high school and preparing for his high school playoff game that fell on his 17th birthday. Fast-forward a year, and Smith has already made a place for himself in USC’s record books, now holding the record for most receiving yards in a USC debut with 123. So far this season, he’s racked up a total of 531 yards on 42 receptions and has five touchdowns. All this and Smith is not yet a legal adult.Young Jeezy · At just 17 years old, freshman wide receiver JuJu Smith boasts 531 receiving yards and five touchdowns in his debut campaign. – Ralf Cheung | Daily TrojanSmith, who will celebrate his 18th birthday Saturday as the Trojans take on their crosstown rival UCLA Bruins, said he’s proud of the contributions he’s made at such a young age.“It feels good just knowing that I’m still 17, and I’m out here doing everything I can for this team,” Smith said.Smith attributes his success in football to his drive to be the best receiver possible.“I think it’s really my work ethic,” Smith said. “I’m not the fastest and I’m not the biggest, but I always put in the extra work, and I feel like that’s what separates me from other players.”Despite his success so far, Smith is USC’s second receiver, behind junior Nelson Agholor — still an impressive feat for just a 17-year-old.“For me especially, I look up to Nelson Agholor,” Smith said. “He’s a great guy. Everyday I try to outwork him and compete with him. He mentors me a lot. That’s what I like about him. He’s not selfish. He knows I can make plays and he believes in me, and we really have trust in each other.”Though Agholor came to USC from Tampa, Florida, Smith graduated from local powerhouse Long Beach Poly in 2014 and immediately enrolled in summer school at USC. Smith said adjusting to summer school was hard initially, but he feels he had an easy transition to life at USC.“It’s been easy,” Smith said. “I feel like my high school has taught me a lot and matured me a lot to get me to where I am today.”The transition from high school football to college football was made easy for Smith by head coach Steve Sarkisian.“It’s been very smooth with him,” Smith said. “I met Coach Sark when I went to Washington. He’s a great coach. He’s a player coach, he really understands the players. I feel comfortable with him, and I know I can talk to him and ask him for anything.”Smith’s high school performance impressed not only USC, but 25 other schools.“I was recruited by 26 schools,” Smith said. “The ones I liked were USC, Oregon, Alabama, Notre Dame and UCLA. They’re all great schools, but I’m a Christian man and staying home allows me to go to my church at home.”Smith originally planned to attend Oregon but changed his mind the night before signing day.“The day before, I told my mom I wanted to go to Oregon,” Smith said. “It was really hard. I really thought about it that night, and I woke up the next morning and I decided I wanted to go to USC.”Smith has already made a name for himself on the football field but is still trying to find his academic path. His major is currently undecided, but he is leaning toward a degree in human biology.“I’m very interested in it because I like working with the body,” Smith said. “I could do sports medicine or even become a chiropractor.”As he continues to grow up, Smith plans to make some changes. When he turns 18, he wants to legally change his last name to Schuster to honor his stepdad.“It means a lot to me,” Smith said. “My stepdad came into my life when I was four years old, and he introduced me to football. He’s a very big part of my life, so I want to change my name to Schuster. I want to do it by the beginning of next year.”Smith tries to honor his family every time he steps out onto the field and hopes that will translate into a win on Saturday. Aside from a USC victory on his birthday, Smith is also hoping for an unorthodox gift: a unicycle.“Besides winning this game, I want an AirWheel. It’s an electric unicycle,” Smith said. “But for right now, my only plan is to just win the game, and then I’ll see what happens afterward.”last_img

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