BURTONSVILLE, Md. (WDVM) – Octavian Smith Jr. likes to have the football in his hands. He always has.
“He had to have the football everywhere he went,” Smith’s mother Tamika Smith said. “And if he didn’t, he would cry and his father and I, we would literally have to stop and go to the store and get him a ball because he loved football.”
Smith, who is a four star recruit and senior athlete for Paint Branch high school’s football team, can’t remember a time a football wasn’t in his hands.
“Ever since I was a baby, I always had a football in my hand,” Octavian said. “[My mom] told me stories like my granddad who passed away, she used to tell me all the time that he would throw the football with me and he would be like, that boy got an arm for one year old.”
Smith starts at quarterback for the Panthers and every time he takes the field, Tamika is watching.
“I’d never missed not one of his football games, since he’s been playing football,” Tamika said. “And people are just amazed because they’re like, how did you not miss like one game, but I haven’t like I’ve been at all games, basketball games, anything he does. I’m there.”
Attending every game, Tamika wears a black sweatshirt with shiny gold letters on it that says “Tay’s Mom” with the number five on it. She even paces up and down the field in the stands during games, loudly cheering on Octavian. During games, Octavian wears a sticker on his pads on top of his jersey that says, “Momma this one for you,” with a red heart under it.
“My mom, that’s my idol. I look up to her. So she’s my number one role model,” Octavian told WDVM. “Words will never be enough to explain my love and appreciation for her. She’s always been there for us and honestly, I’m sure I can speak for me and my other three siblings, we wouldn’t have have asked for a better mom.”
Octavian has received college scholarship offers from many schools, including Maryland, Virginia, Penn State and Pittsburgh. He was committed to Northwestern, but reopened his recruiting process this year. In addition to leading the offense under center, Octavian returns punts and has played cornerback, wide receiver and running back for the Panthers.
“He’s critical, obviously to our success on the field,” Paint Branch football head coach Michael Nesmith said. “Because he’s truly an outstanding player and to be able to have a quarterback with his throwing capability, that also has his running capabilities, he’s also, most times, the fastest player on the field. That’s really tough for defenses to deal with.”
Octavian has helped the Panthers to an 8-1 record this season.
“He’s doing his thing and he’s doing great, you know, and so I believe that he has the potential to be whatever he wants to be,” Tamika said. “You know, if NFL is what it is, I believe he has the potential and the heart and the person that he is and he’s humble.”
No. 5 overall seed Paint Branch will face No. 4 Northwest in the MPSSAA class 4A state quarterfinals on Friday. Paint Branch is trying to make a run and win its first state title since 1975.
“To be able to come out of here with a state championship my senior year, like through all the success I had and all the support I’ve received from across the state,” Octavian said. “I feel like it’ll help me fulfill my destiny. I feel like I’ll be able to look back and say I left my legacy.”
While Octavian is playing for the school and his teammates beside him, he says his family and most of all his mother, is his biggest motivation.
“My whole motive behind what I do, my mom plays a real big key part in that. So being able to like come out, run out from over there, run over to the sideline, see my mom right there and we just look at each other and smile,” Octavian said. “And she just gives me that look and I give it I look back like yes ma’am, I got you, you already know what to do. And that’s go off, ball my butt off.”