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Jaw-dropping Jaxon Smith-Njigba debut reveals star potential

Jaxon Smith Njigba-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba nabbed a highlight-reel touchdown. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football

Jaw-dropping Jaxon Smith-Njigba debut reveals star potential

COLUMBUS — Ohio State freshman wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba was officially introduced to college football Saturday.

The initiation came midway through the fourth quarter from Nebraska defensive back Deontae Williams, who delivered a hard hit on Smith-Njigba, one that warranted a targeting penalty and certainly got the attention of Smith-Njigba.

“I’m feeling that hit, now,” Smith-Njigba told fellow freshman wide receiver Gee Scott on the field after the play. But Smith-Njigba stayed in the game, despite the feeling from that hit.

And three plays later, college football was officially introduced to Jaxon Smith-Njigba, when Justin Fields found him in the back of the end zone for an insane, nearly impossible, toe-tap catch that was ruled incomplete at first, but was later reviewed, reversed to a touchdown and sent social media into a frenzy wondering how he could make such a play.

“I didn’t see it, actually,” Fields said. “I got hit pretty hard so I was just hoping that he caught it and got in. But I had no idea if he got his foot down or not.”

He got his foot down. And the second catch of his career, just a five-yard completion, will be hard to top. The highly-touted freshman, who broke nearly every Texas high school receiving record while playing at the highest level in that state, is just getting started.

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Jaxon Smith-Njigba had a big day Saturday for Ohio State. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

“We see that very often in practice,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “Just amazing catches. We have some acrobats out there. So yeah, when you practice that way, it shows up in the games so we’re very happy to see him get his first touchdown. That was very exciting.”

In a room that is stocked full of four- and five-star talent, Smith-Njigba still found a way to stand out during his first career game at Ohio State. Sure, he’s still not the headliner in the room. And he won’t be as long as Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave are leading the wide receivers room. But Smith-Njigba already has that highlight on his reel.

Watch his high school tape. See him at practice. Nobody is surprised that he had that kind of incredible reception in his first-ever action inside the Horseshoe. Not Fields, who has been throwing to him since January. Not Day, who saw what he could do in the recruiting process. Not Wilson, who had a coming-out party of his own last season with an unbelievable catch against Miami (Ohio). He knows what a spectacular catch can do for a freshman.

“For him, that was huge,” Wilson said of Smith-Njigba. “Going into this game, we had talked about making plays and stuff like that. When you play receiver, that’s something that just comes up in conversation. For him to make that play at that point in that game, it was super awesome. We were all super excited for him. We got to dance and everything like that.”

Smith-Njigba wasn’t even the highest-rated wide receiver in the Buckeyes class out of high school. But since he arrived at Ohio State for the spring semester, he was always considered by many as the freshman wide receiver who could have an immediate impact this season.

And through one game, that prognostication is proving to be true. Fields threw him a pass in the fourth quarter that led to a brutal hit. Welcome to college football, Jaxon.

Three plays later, Jaxon Smith-Njigba introduced himself. And he’ll be around for at least three years.

“Jaxon, he’s someone that has amazing abilities,” Wilson said. “One of the best I’ve ever seen. He’s going to be a baller for years to come. Jaxon has all that.”

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Spencer Holbrook

Spencer Holbrook covers Ohio State football and basketball for Lettermen Row. A graduate of Ohio University's Scripps School of Journalism, he's in his second year covering the Buckeyes. He was previously the sports editor at Ohio's student newspaper, The Post, where he covered Ohio University football and men's basketball.