As if you needed any more reasons to adopt JuJu Smith-Schuster as a rookie fan favorite, you gotta love the answers he gave over on Steelers.com Thursday.
In questionnaire format, Smith-Schuster was honest when asked about what motivates and inspires him.
“It was always the coach I played for. I never wanted to let that person down. In college it was Tee Martin, our offensive coordinator. I came here and now it’s Richard Mann and Coach (Mike) Tomlin. That is how it is and has always been. I never want to let my teammates down or coaches.”
Martin, his USC coach by the way, was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2000.
Said it before but it’s worth repeating. Maybe I’m too young to suggest it but I don’t recall seeing a rookie embrace his new city, one 3000 miles away, no less, like Smith-Schuster. He’s been a presence in the community and also doing good for it. Yesterday, he teamed up with the local Meals on Wheels to deliver food in the area.
It’s that hand-in-the-pile attitude that’s brought him immediate success in his football career. He’s always been the youngest guy in the room. That’s no different in the NFL where he enters as one of its youngest players at 20 years old. In fact, at 20 years and 5 months, Smith-Schuster is the youngest player drafted in the Kevin Colbert era. The previous youngest player drafted was Maurkice Pouncey, three months older when selected in 2010.
The Steelers have a mixed track record of drafting those under the drinking age. In order, from youngest to oldest, since 2000.
Some winners, for sure. Pouncey, Timmons, Tuitt. And some misses, Dwyer and Holliman, but each came later in the draft anyway. It also shows the team isn’t afraid to go young early in the draft. Six of those nine names were taken in the top two rounds.
What will separate Smith-Schuster apart from say, Mendenall or Holliman, is a passion for the game. The work he’ll put in to focus on football and be his best self possible. It isn’t a recipe that guarantees success. But it’s a recipe that certainly lends itself to one and few players have ever made it without having a lot of that passion and drive.