This will be our fifth installment of Q&As with LIU Brooklyn student-athletes (you can read the rest here). This week we have Jacob Smith, a member of LIU Brooklyn’s Men’s Soccer team.
Smith came to LIU Brooklyn by way of Austin, Texas. He is a 20-year-old majoring in marketing who played in 18 games last season despite a hip injury that would later require surgery. In fact, this is Smith’s first completely health season in three years as he’s dealt with not only the hip injury, but two major ankle injuries as well. Despite last year’s injury, he still showed enough skill and promise that College Sports Madness put him on the All-Northeast Conference Second Team in their preseason awards. He’s also pretty intelligent too as he’s been named to the NEC Fall Academic Honor Roll in both years at LIU.
Brooklyn Eagle Sports: Let’s start with your injuries. What happened that you missed your freshman season?
Jacob Smith: I was coming off an ankle injury, I had two surgeries back to back senior year of high school and the summer just before freshman year so i was coming back from surgery that entire year.
BES: What happened?
JS: It happened junior year. I was playing in a game and suffered a high ankle sprain, I had surgery that they thought would fix it, but it didn’t. When I returned I rolled my ankle again and it did cartilage damage this time. That was tough to get back from.
BES: How did rehab go throughout both ankle injuries?
JS: Very slow. Right after the surgery I couldn’t walk for a while, even as I began walking, I couldn’t run. Biking and swimming were the only thing I could do and I didn’t get back on the field until that spring almost a year later. It was tough to get back into shape, tough to get my legs strong again, it was tough coming from Texas to New York City with an injury adjusting to everything. I was in a boot and crutches for the first few weeks. It was tough with the crutches, your arm pits begin to hurt.
My senior year of high school, I didn’t play, and then freshman year of college I didn’t play. It was a long stretch where I didn’t play. Coming back from that mentally was tough because I was kind of out of things.
BES: After missing your senior year of high school and freshman year of college, adjusting to the college level must have been tough.
JS: Yeah. When I finally got back on the field in the fall the fast pace of it kind of forced me to adapt. I had some upperclassmen that were real good and my coaching staff was great. We had a lot of long meetings breaking down film and going over things. That was a big help. I don’t think I could have done it without them; they made it a lot easier.
BES: So what happened when you injured your hip?
JS: Last preseason I tore my labrum in my hip. It hurt to run sometimes, practice was limited to me sometimes, kicking the ball long distances was tough. It added a kind of obstacle. Nothing I hadn’t been through at that point. After I made it through the ankle injury, I was mentally strong enough to deal with it and knew to get myself to rehab every day.
BES: But you didn’t have surgery? How was playing through that injury?
JS: I had surgery in the beginning of December after the season. Throughout the year it was OK. I would go through some games in a lot of pain, but it was easy to be managed for the most part. When the season was over they shut me down and had surgery right away. I didn’t start playing again until recently.
BES: How do you feel now?
JS: I feel great. I’m ready for the season, I feel strong, feel fit. The team is looking great. I can’t wait to begin our season in California. Injuries tend to linger sometimes, but my training staff and coaching staff help me manage it and keep it bearable, but for the most part I feel great.
BES: You’ve got to feel pretty excited to finally be completely healthy. Do you feel like you have something to prove?
JS: I don’t even know if excitement properly describes it. I’m ready; I cannot wait. I’ve been looking forward to it since last December or November when the season ended. I think I always have something to prove, especially to my coaches. They continued to give me a chance, they knew i was coming in injured and a lot of schools passed me by and they continued to give me a chance. There is definitely something to prove at all times.
BES: That brings up a good point. You suffered the injury in high school way before going to LIU. Did you ever suspect they were hesitant to stick with you?
JS: I verbally committed junior year of high school when I was healthy, but I signed my National Letter of Intent senior year when I was injured. I didn’t feel any hesitation though. They believed in me and trusted that I would work hard enough to get back and I feel i’m still doing that. Coach TJ Kostecky was very honest and upfront about everything. We talked about it and he never threatened to take back his scholarship or anything. He was very honest and I owe him a lot for that.
BES: What was the entire recruitment process like for you?
JS: I was being recruited beginning sophomore year of high school and I verbally committed after sophomore year during the summer going into junior year. So my recruiting process ended very early. What happened was I visited New York and knew right away that I had to come here. It was too cool to pass up. Before that I wasn’t really sure what i was looking for. I was just out there to play soccer. I would recieve emails, I never went out looking for schools. I felt like it was a huge compliment.
BES: What was it about LIU specifically that made you want to come here?
JS: It was a combination of things. TJ, I felt he would have my back. When he gave me his word to honor everything, I trusted him and my mom trusted him. He really made a point to show it was a family aspect here at LIU. I wasn’t just going to a huge school and being looked over. There are 11,000 people here at the school but it’s really like a small community especially being so far from home in a big city.
BES: And what about Brooklyn? What was it that you saw in the city and decided it was too cool to pass up?
JS: It’s just so different. Just the fact that it was so different, I wanted the experience. It was exciting. A lot of people back home found out I was coming here and they couldn’t believe it. I had enough guts to live here and it’s just something a lot of people don’t have the chance to do. It’s something special.
BES: Because of the injuries you still have three years of eligibility left. Are you considering what you’ll do after school yet or are you still focused on LIU?
JS: I’m still focused on school and playing soccer. I played with the idea of maybe doing a masters, but I think I’m going to double-major in business and marketing or maybe doing a minor in something. I heard that LIU is going to offer a minor program in entrepreneurship and I’m curious about getting involved in that.
As far as after school, I think it’s still too far in the future. The furthest I’m looking at right now is playing in a PDL league and to get an internship. I’ve not quite figured that out yet though. It depends on the opportunity and whether it’s here or back home. If I had my choice I think I’d rather stay here for a few more years, but it will come down to what opportunity presents itself.
BES: Your team was ranked seventh in a recent coaches poll. What do you expect out of this season?
JS: It’s definitely understandable that we were picked seventh this year looking at last season’s record, but I think we’re looking really good and we’re excited to prove everyone wrong. We were young last year; we had a lot of freshmen and sophomores and we didn’t do so well. A lot of times it was stupid mistakes that cost us and coming in with a little more experience this season those are corrections that could easily be made.
BES: What’s your favorite thing to do in Brooklyn?
JS: I love the Brooklyn Bridge Park. It’s really beautiful and I like playing on the soccer fields it has. It’s just super windy but real cool. I just love to explore Brooklyn though, you know? Just to take some time by myself and go on a walk. I just pick a direction I haven’t gone before and start walking. There are always cool things to find.
BES: What is your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?
JS: The Red Rose on Smith Street. Our coach takes us there once a year during preseason. It’s a little family-style Italian place. The food is delicious. I took my mom there when she visited and she fell in love as well.
Thanks again to Jacob for taking the time to speak with me. The LIU Brooklyn Men’s Soccer team officially opens its season next Friday, Aug. 30 in California against San Francisco. Be sure to check back here throughout the season as we follow the Blackbirds all year long.