John Curtis Secondary is Talented

Smith talks about the Curtis secondary

Last year, the John Curtis Christian Patriots truly hit the big time. While the suburban New Orleans school is no stranger to prep football fans across the country - JCC head coach J.T. Curtis leads all high school coaches nationwide - some events over the past two seasons have resulted in much limelight for the Patriots.

After Katrina struck New Orleans, John Curtis was one of the first schools to resume action on the gridiron - and that didn't escape the media's attention.  In fact, a forthcoming book about the Patriots should hit stores soon - and HBO jumped on the movie rights to the book. 

In addition, JCC had perhaps the best player in the country last year in running back Joe McKnight, now at USC.  When McKnight and his teammates invaded Hoover, Alabama, last season and defeated the favored Buccaneers, it certainly watered down interest in MTV's reality show featuring Hoover football. 

At the conclusion of the season last year, John Curtis sat near the top of the national rankings, weighing in at No. 3 in one major poll (PrepNation.com/National Prep Poll), and while the Patriots lost much more than  McKnight to graduation (two DL to Big 10 and Pac-10 programs, a LB to an SEC school, and a DB to another SEC school), there is plenty of firepower returning this season, including probably the nation's top secondary.

Standing tall - literally - in the defensive backfield is 6-foot-4, 190-pound senior P.J. Smith, who is the No. 17 ranked player in Louisiana.  Smith is a three-star player with offers from Alabama and Tulane, as well as interest from other major programs, including LSU and Arizona State

Perhaps not coincidentally, Smith just returned from the Bama football camp and he raved about the experience.

"I loved it," said Smith.  "Coach Nick (Saban) worked us hard.  I thought it was going to be laid back like many camps, but it was intense.  It wasn't like a regular camp."

Smith said that he received a lot of hands-on attention from Saban, who is renowned for his defensive prowess.

"He showed me how to work on my backpedal, my breaks (for the ball), and staying low so I can use my leverage."

Accompanying the three-star Smith to Tuscaloosa was teammate Robby Green, the No. 12 rated cornerback in the country.

Smith said that Green shined at Alabama.

"Robby was the best player at the entire camp," said Smith proudly.  "I want to put that out there." 

While the mere presence of Smith and Green would make for one of the country's best secondaries,  the buck doesn't stop there. Strong safety Alex Lauricella, a Tulane commit, was named the MVP of the Stanford Camp. 

 

Rounding out the defensive backfield is a familiar name - sophomore Jonathan McKnight, Joe's younger brother.  McKnight, aided by a crushing block from his older brother, returned a punt for a long TD versus 5A Mandeville last year. 

"Alex is good," Smith said.  "He's the fastest player on the team."

"Jonathan isn't as good as his brother yet," quipped Smith.

The Crimson Tide and Saban was the first program to offer Smith and that has stuck in the senior free safety's mind. 

"(That first offer) shows that a school has confidence in you," Smith said. 


While LSU has reportedly offered, Smith said that the Tigers are taking a wait-and-see stance right now. 

The one knock that critics have made about Smith is his speed. 

"I'm not fast, but I'm not slow," he said.  "I've run below a 4.6 before." 

And Smith's thoughts on the 2007 season?

"It won't be as easy as last year," he said, "but I don't see us losing a game.

"We've been working hard and I watched some film of (5A Texas power) Longview the other day."  Smith and the Patriots will take on the Lobos this fall in an interstate battle that is sure to draw rabid interest from fans in the two adjacent football-crazy states. 

John Curtis Christian will seek its 22nd state football title this fall. 

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