John Tyler QB Smith cool under pressure like those before him

 

To paraphrase the legendary Ron Burgundy, the quarterback position at John Tyler is kind of a big deal.

Since 2009 when the Lions started a run of five 11-plus win seasons in six years, stellar quarterback play at John Tyler has been almost a given.

Whether it was Jeremy Johnson and Greg Ward winning state-wide player of the year honors or David Bush and Geovari McCollister leading deep playoff runs, the man under center for the Lions is under plenty of scrutiny - and has delivered.

How much pressure is the Lions quarterback under?

"Just as much pressure as the head coach because of the expectation level," JT coach Ricklan Holmes said. "The play at quarterback we've had over the past several years has been amazing.

"Every time a new quarterback steps into that position the whole world, the whole community, the whole state of Texas expects that guy to be pretty good. So far we've been keeping that together."

Expectations, pressure, the weight of a community. Current John Tyler quarterback Bryson Smith shrugs it all off.

"I've never felt pressure; it's just another task at hand," Smith said. "There's a lot of hype behind it. Everybody's looking at you, so I like that."

Cool, calm, collected, that's how Holmes describes his quarterback, and it's easy to see why.

Despite the offense's slow start to the season, Smith is averaging 328.0 yards per game of total offense. Of those 200 come through the air and 128 on the ground, more than standout running back Jeremy Wilson averaged last year when he finished with 1,776 yards.

"I think I'm more comfortable now and I get less rattled, more poised," Smith said. "I see the game. It's slowing down to me."

Smith's cool under fire isn't just an act before and after games, it's something that's evident on the field. In the third quarter against Lufkin last week, Smith lost a fumble but hustled back and recovered a Panthers fumble on the same play to get the ball back.

At one point late in the first half of the same game, an awkward snap ended up hitting the turf. Showing some of the skills that earned him basketball All-East Texas Newcomer of the Year as a point guard last spring, Smith dribbled the ball back into his grasp, rolled to his right and hit Damion Miller for a 46-yard gain.

"He's a kid that doesn't get rattled," Holmes said. "He understands that things are not always going to go right but as the quarterback at John Tyler High School, you've got to make it right."

Though the play was called back for an illegal man downfield, Smith has plenty of big plays to his name this year, whether it was a 73-yard touchdown run or a 91-yard touchdown pass, although to be fair Duntayviun Gross did most of the work on that play.

Gross and Miller have helped Smith immensely in the passing game. The dynamic duo accounts for 840 of Smith's 1,200 passing yards and seven of his nine touchdowns.

"We improved a lot because we've been putting in a lot more work after school, running routes with each other, getting our timing down," Smith said. "(Chemistry is) good; it's getting better every game. We're still working. We still can be much better."

That's a scary proposition for opponents, as many have learned over the years.

Jeremy Johnson led the Lions to a 12-2 record in 2009 before Bush equaled that feat the next year. Under Ward, the Lions broke all sorts of school records on the way to back-to-back state semifinal appearances, a trend that McCollister continued in his senior season a year ago.

"Because of the athletes we have come through here, we're always going to find somebody to fill that role," Holmes said. "All of them are a little bit different in their own way, but they all are able to run the offense.

"They're always smart guys and they're always guys who are mentally tough because you have to be to play at this high level."

Of the four previous quarterbacks, Holmes said Smith is most like Ward, the current starter at the University of Houston, because both are complete quarterbacks.

Smith was a ball boy while Ward lost his first three games as a varsity quarterback only to turn the season around and reach the state semifinals, something Smith would love to repeat after the Lions started 0-3 this year but are currently on a three-game winning streak.

"Bryson reminds me a lot of Greg at the early stages," Holmes said. "You see glimpses of the way he runs and the decisions that he makes when he's in the pocket, how he keeps his eyes downfield. He's a pass first guy, but you know he can run."

Now Smith is running the JT offense with the same success of his predecessors. The Lions averaged 6.9 yards per play last week, raising their season average to 6.5.

He's merely the latest great to man the position, arguably the most popular one in school.

"It means a lot," Smith said of being the JT QB. "There's a lot behind it, a lot of history. … It's just big shoes to fill."

And like those before him, Smith will leave behind his own big shoes for the next John Tyler quarterback.

LIONS TALES: Tickets for the John Tyler-Ennis game will be sold on campus to students and faculty Thursday and Friday. Additional ticket sales will be at the TISD athletic office (807 W. Glenwood) Thursday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. on Friday; at T&T Lewis (903 W. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd) during regular business hours Thursday; and Tyler Athletics (5201 S. Broadway) from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday. Presale tickets are $6 for adults and $3 for students. Gate tickets cost $7 for general admission and $8 for reserved. Additional ticket sales are available at https://tylerisd.brushfireapp.com/

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