COLUMBIA — Jamar Smith spent much of the spring and summer angry, often taking out that anger on his Missouri teammates. Now they know why.
During spring football, the defensive tackle was starting fights, calling out teammates and becoming a distraction. That anger carried over to summer drills. On Aug. 10, he challenged the entire offensive line before being stopped by defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski and head coach Gary Pinkel.
The change was perplexing. Smith has always been one of the most jovial players on the Tigers’ defense.
Pinkel banished Smith to the sideline and kept him there until he calmed down. Finally, Smith confided to a teammate, defensive end Brian Smith, what had been bothering him for six months: His 19-year-old brother, Keon Williams, had been sent to jail in Florida in February for robbery.
Williams had a brief stint in jail late last year, but had been released in January and put on house arrest. Smith said one of Williams’ friends told the police more about the robbery, and Williams was put back in jail.
Making matters worse, Williams sent letters to Smith, telling him how Williams believed his older brother had let him down.
“Mentally, I’ve been crying tears because he’s locked up and I feel like it’s my fault,” Smith told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He said when I left (for school), he just went on the wrong path because he missed me so much. Everything I do, I do for him, and that hurt me so much. I had no idea he felt like that.”
Smith admitted he was “letting my anger take advantage of me” at practice. Meanwhile, sophomore Ziggy Hood was taking his starting position.
“Tank (Smith) is a Ray Lewis-type of guy,” Brian Smith said. “He plays with his emotions, and sometimes those can offset his playing abilities to the negative side. Once his emotions get flared up like that, we’re trying to get him to use that on opponents and take that aggressiveness out on them, not in some of the ways he’s been doing it here.”
Meanwhile, Smith is still trying to help his brother, even though the letters stopped coming a couple of months ago. He has kept in constant contact with Williams’ girlfriend and their now 4-month-old daughter.
He knows he needs to keep his emotions in check on the field.
“I’ve had to not think about it so much at practice and not let it take advantage of me,” Smith said. “Now, I got to get back. I’m just out there hustling every day, trying to get my spot back.”