Winter 2022

Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba declares for NFL draft: 'Most of all I want to thank God'

Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s time as an Ohio State Buckeye has officially come to an end. The star wide receiver announced on social media Monday he would not be playing in the College Football Playoff and is turning his attention to preparing for the NFL draft.

In his statement, Smith-Njigba said doctors determined the hamstring injury he’s battled all season would prevent him from taking the field in the Peach Bowl against No. 1 Georgia. He began the statement by expressing his appreciation for having the opportunity to play at Ohio State.

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“As a young kid from Texas, I’ve always dreamed of playing football on the biggest stage,” he wrote. “It’s humbling to think that I eventually did play not only on the biggest stage in college football, but also surrounded by the best group of people.”

Smith-Njigba then gave glory to God.

“Most of all I want to thank God for giving me strength,” he said. “Leaning on Him has always been my answer, and He has not failed me yet because I know I’ll come out stronger than ever.”

Named a preseason first-team All-American by the Associated Press and Sporting News, Smith-Njigba was supposed to be one of the best wideouts in the country. He injured his hamstring in the Buckeyes’ season-opening win over Notre Dame and appeared in only two other games, catching a total of five passes for 43 yards.

Speaking with ESPN after announcing he is turning pro, Smith-Njigba did not hide his disappointment about how his final year in Columbus went and identified his faith as a source of strength.

“The season was tough, and I did everything I could to help my team and get back on the field,” he said. “Sometimes things don’t work out how you planned, but my faith in God has given me the strength to focus on my health and the next challenge.”

Smith-Njigba did not feature prominently as a true freshman during Ohio State’s run to the national championship game in 2020, catching 10 passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. But he was one of the breakout stars of the 2021 season and finished with 95 catches for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns.

The Rockwall, Texas, native had one of the best performances by a receiver in college football history in last season’s Rose Bowl against Utah, which only increased the excitement surrounding him heading into 2022. He set a Football Bowl Subdivision bowl game record with 345 receiving yards while scoring three touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ 48-45 victory.

Smith-Njigba was quick to praise God and his teammates after the game.

“I’ve got to give all things to God,” he said. “Without Him, nothing’s possible. I’ve got to give thanks to Coach (Ryan Day) and (quarterback C.J. Stroud) for getting me the opportunities. The O-line, you know, it’s not just me. I couldn’t have done it without them. I just try to take in every moment every time the ball is in the air. I felt like I did that today, so it’s a blessing.”

Smith-Njigba told ESPN he plans to participate in the NFL combine, which begins Feb. 28. He is a projected first-round pick.

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