Jacksonville Sports Day

JU FOCUS: The Binds of Brotherhood

You don’t have to tell Midshipman Second Class Emon Smith about brotherhood. Dig deeper than the 21-year-old’s naval title or recent appointment to the leadership council on the Jacksonville University football team, and ask about his past.

He is the youngest of three boys, raised by a single mother after the passing of their father.

At eight years old, Emon learned the importance of togetherness, and it has been his life’s creed – brotherhood in family, team and service.

“My dad passed away of Lou Gehrig’s disease, and so my mom is all I have. She’s the strongest lady in the world,” said Emon. “She definitely took care of us well, taught us discipline and stuff like that. It’s hard raising three boys by yourself, bringing us to all the football games and tutoring us in studies. A big shout out to my mom.”

Emon’s mother Gwendolyn will always be his greatest source of inspiration, but they say a boy wants to grow up to be just like his father. Emon was given a short time with his, but it didn’t stop him nor his brothers from walking in Eugene Louis Smith Sr.’s footsteps.

Before his passing, Smith Sr. served the United States Navy for nine years.

Emon is working towards a bachelor’s degree in aviation with a minor through Jacksonville’s Naval ROTC program and expects to be a commissioned officer in two years.

In the Dolphins’ final scrimmage of preseason camp, he missed action to welcome his brother Evin home after eight months in the Middle East.

Evin enlisted into the Navy more than a year ago and is a Surface Warfare Officer currently stationed down the road at Mayport. The family previously lived in New Orleans, La., and Pensacola, Fla., and both of the Smith boys began their naval career in the same city their father began his – Jacksonville.

“As next generation, my brother and I have taken it to the next level,” said Emon. “My brothers are big role models to me. I’m the baby of the family so I got beat up a lot but, you know, it makes you tough.

“I just learned from them every day – what to do and not to do. They just always looked out for me a lot. Having them support me, and be someone to talk to, I didn’t have a dad there, so I leaned on them a lot for wisdom and understanding.”

A scholarship to the University’s ROTC program attracted Emon to JU, but the football team was an added bonus. It had a familiar, familial feel – the idea of “having each other’s back” – that made hours of physical training with the ROTC followed by football practice easy to swallow.

“In ROTC, I have to take care of my sailors and I translate that over to football because on the field my brothers are my teammates. I have to look out for them. I care about them a lot.

“There’s no special treatment. I don’t want the slack. When I’m out there with my brothers, I don’t want any special treatment because of what I’m doing and the coaches recognize that. They support me a lot. [Our coaches] came from Army and West Point so they understand. Of course, some days are hard but at the end of the day, I get to play football, something I love to do.”

The 2017 season will mark Emon’s final in a Dolphin uniform. The next chapter of his life will see him soar new heights as a naval aviator, but at the moment a Pioneer Football League championship is his primary focus.

“My biggest emphasis is family,” Emon concluded. “We aren’t all we got, but we definitely have each other’s back. When we go to battle and play a game, it takes all of us to win.”

Jacksonville’s journey to the postseason begins Thursday, Aug. 31, at Mercer.

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