Countdown to Kickoff: 7 days away with defensive back TJ Smith

Leading up to the start of K-State's 2021 football season, the Collegian takes a look at what to expect and highlights every player on the roster. (Archive photo by Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

Tajiri “TJ” Smith is a redshirt freshman from Atlanta, Georgia. Standing at 5 foot 9 inches and weighing 190 pounds, Smith played at McEachern High School under head coach Franklin Stephens. He helped the Indians go 12-1 and earn a trip to the state championship quarterfinals in 2018, along with a 14-1 record and a state championship in 2017.

After recording 41 tackles and 10 passes defended as a senior, Smith was rated the 62nd best cornerback in the class of 2020 by Rivals. He received 23 offers from across the nation, including Louisville, Kentucky and Houston. Smith initially committed to Memphis before changing his mind and coming to Manhattan.

Smith played in each of the first four games of the 2020 season before suffering a season-ending injury against TCU. He tallied seven tackles before his injury, including a season-high four against Texas Tech.

Since his injury, Smith has received praise from his coaches about his mentality and attitude during the recovery process.

“Well, the fact that he got injured, that was disappointing for him as well as for us as a program, but sometimes people get injured and you see something very different as they fight back to recovery,” cornerbacks coach Van Malone said to K-State Athletics. “That’s what I would say we saw in TJ. I call him ‘The Wasp’ because he’s always stinging people. I’m excited. He’s a very good young player.”

“You wouldn’t know anything [about his injury]. He doesn’t wear a brace. He’s making cuts, running, changing direction. You wouldn’t have noticed anything different,” defensive coordinator Joe Klanderman said to K-State Athletics.

Smith should see plenty of playing time this season after making an impact as a true freshman this past year. There is potential for him to become a starter if he impresses the right people.