Nation’s No. 2 LB Smael Mondon Jr. sees ‘national championship’ future for Georgia
Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings. This entry introduces the DawgNation Daily reader to 5-star LB Smael Mondon Jr. of Paulding County High School in Northwest Georgia.
The Smael Mondon Jr. story won’t read like a lot of others in this space.
This narrative won’t dwell on his 5-star status. We won’t hover over his slot on the 247Sports Composite as the nation’s No. 2 OLB and No. 23 overall prospect for the 2021 cycle.
The thinking here is that Mondon is more uncommon than even those laurels might suggest.
The best play on his highlight tape might be that early jet sweep, but that’s not the biggest reason why.
The Paulding County program does weaponize its best athlete on both sides of the ball. It was quite impressive to see the 6-foot-3, 218-pounder tearing loose around the edge. Flashing that 11.1 speed in the 100 as a ballcarrier for his Patriots.
The fact he is a triple jumper who now resets his school record yearly raises eyebrows, too. Mondon has even set his eyes on soaring 48 to 49 feet this spring. According to Milesplit.com, the state record for that event is at 53 feet and 9.25 inches.
If Mondon soars 49 feet this year as a junior, that will be something. An effort like that would have won the state title in Georgia in every classification last spring except for his own Class 5A. That winning distance was 50 feet, 4 inches.
We should all shake our heads at the fact UGA has its eyes on a linebacker who can run an 11.1 in the 100 meters and do so at 218 pounds who also has set his eyes on a 49-feet effort in the triple jump.
Mondon is just different. That’s really just the tip of it It starts with his unique first name to the way and goes on to the way he cares about the program he plays for to the time he spends watching film.
That’s so he will be able to play just as fast as his innate athleticism allows him to on the field.
The quick-hit things to know about Smael Mondon Jr.
Mondon, in stark contrast to his peers, does not attend prospect camps. He’s never been to one. He has no plans to change that, either.
He will not be at The Opening regional. Nor any of the Under Armour camps. Or any of the 7-on-7 showcases where the nation’s elite annually add more fame to their games each spring.
“That’s just not Smael,” Paulding County coach Van Spence said. “He’s just not into that. He’s not about that. He’s not into any of that fluff. He’ll go to these schools and check out all their facilities. He’ll even nod his head. But that’s just not what he’s about or what he is looking for.”
The fact that Mondon has not appeared in any of those prospect showcase events AND is still a 5-star recruit serves as a fitting testament to his skill set.
For those that scan this space for recruiting juice, let’s take a minute to address the basic food groups.
- Mondon has just one college visit planned as of right now. That will be an unofficial visit on March 27-28 to check out Oklahoma. Lincoln Riley and inside linebackers coach Brian Odom have done a great job recruiting him so far.
- The Florida Gators, specifically inside linebackers coach Christian Robinson, should feel the same way. Robinson, a former Georgia linebacker, has connected with the Paulding County staff and Mondon on a personal level.
- Mondon does not plan to make his recruiting decision anytime soon. It might not even be during his senior season.
- Why does he want to do that? “It will probably be done after my senior year,” he said. “I don’t want to rush anything and I don’t want to do it in the middle of the season. It will take attention away from the actual season. I just want to be focused on the actual football season and make my decision after the season.”
- Look for him to take his official visits during the fall.
- Mondon has yet to feel at liberty in paring down his list of schools. But it certainly sounds like schools like Auburn, Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma have done a good job of recruiting him up to this point. Tennessee is also in the mix here.
- His grade-point average rests in the 3.6-to-3.7 range and has already qualified. Stanford actually offered.
- Mondon will miss track season during his senior year. The plan is for him to graduate early in December and enroll with his future team in January of 2021.
- He’s rated as an LB, but the majority of the schools after him see him as an inside linebacker, including Georgia.
- The plans for now calls for him to be a business major as he enters college.
What is he looking for?
“It is not really like a particular recipe,” he said. “It is just like the relationship with coaches, the team culture and the direction the program is going in.”
What is the best thing he likes about Georgia right now?
“I like the direction the program is going in,” Mondon said. “I feel like in the next couple of years they are going to get a national championship for sure.”
The two really good stories about Smael Mondon Jr.
Paulding County does not pop out elite prospects. The staff at Paulding County could not recall the last time one of their own had an offer from UGA.
They seem far more certain that Mondon is the first Patriot to hold offers from programs like Oklahoma and Stanford.
When Mondon was a sophomore, his Patriots were slumping. They were forced to play 17 sophomores in key or starting roles. It led to an 0-6 start.
There was a moment after a 54-20 loss to Kell that stands out.
When a school like Paulding has a player like Mondon, it doesn’t just attract the attention of college recruiters. Other high school programs take notice, too.
It is not news to note here that coveted high school players frequently make bona fide moves per GHSA rules from one program to another. It happens all the time. With Mondon, there was a worry that the Patriots might not be able to keep him.
“Every was worried or assuming I was going to transfer out being that I was a ‘big-time guy’ and stuff like that,” Mondon said.
He chose the night of a 34-point loss to put the matter to rest. When he saw Spence after the game, he thought he might have looked down while doing some post-game laundry or another matter.
“Coach Spence actually cares about his players,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to stay with him.”
So he spoke up.
“I told him I wasn’t going to leave or anything like that,” Mondon said. “I was going to stay in it with him and build this program. I was just going to let my coach know that as long as he was in it here, I was going to be here. … I love the people here. These are the people I grew up with. It makes football a lot more fun when you see the people around you that you know and care about have success and do well.”
“When I play football, I want to play surrounded by people that I love and care about. So that will help me play even harder. I wouldn’t want to play with anybody else.”
Spence had been there to support him.
“In the world of high school recruiting, I told Smael that ‘I get it’ and we played 17 sophomores last year and it was very difficult,” he said. “I said people are going to come to you and are going to want you to go there. But I told him that all of the goals you want for you high school career and heading off to college can be attained here. We’re here to support you and to help you. I know it happens with all that other stuff though because I have seen it.”
Mondon’s reassurance that night certainly meant a lot.
“He just said that he wasn’t going anywhere and that he loves this place,” Spence said. “He said that just after we just got beat bad. He came up and told me that. I told him that I appreciated that and I will probably always appreciate that.”
Mondon has a bandanna collection. He has more than 20 and would sometimes tie them up and wear them as a belt. He cops to a keen fashion eye. The bandannas were big for him during his junior season. Not so much any more.
But he wore one of those to the weight room last year. He also brought one for Spence. He put it on and they both had their bandannas on for that day’s workout.
He’s named after his father. His father is of French descent, but he said their family roots are from the Ivory Coast in Western Africa.
“He was supposed to be named Ishmael but on my dad’s birth certificate they didn’t put the ‘I’ on it so it is just Smael,” Mondon said. “That’s what came off his birth certificate so they just named me after it.”
He wanted to play soccer growing up, but the sign-up period was closed.
“They only thing left was football,” he said. “So I played that. Now, I just love the sport.”
The things that Georgia loves about Smael Mondon Jr.
Mondon will play both ways for the Patriots. He is a running back and a blocking back for his squad. He will also play linebacker and catch the ball out of the backfield.
Paulding County even had packages with him at quarterback last fall.
A typical game will be somewhere around 80 yards and eight tackles. He’ll log 90-to-100 snaps most nights, but there’s more. That is kind of how it always seems to be with this guy.
“He might be one of the smartest football players that I have been around in the 19 years I’ve been doing this,” Spence said last fall. “It has actually gotten to the point where everybody is so dependent of him and how much he lines us up all around the ball.”
Paulding crated a “Muzzle Monday” of sorts for Mondon. Those would be the defensive practice periods when he was not allowed to speak.
“He was the guy making all the adjustments for us because he knew where every single person on the field had to go and what they were supposed to be doing from the front end to the back end,” Spence said. “We were like ‘Smael just be quiet because everyone else has to know if you are not in there’ and we eventually just took him off the field so they could show us they knew it, too.”
“He is such a student of the game. He’s a really smart person and just a really good kid.”
Let’s recap all of this with a quick minute:
Explosiveness. Loyalty. Football IQ. Track standout. Size. Speed. Playing all over the field. He will be a four-year starter at PCHS. He can lead his team in tackles and rushing yards on any given night. When he carries the ball, he outruns the angles that defenders have on him while breaking big plays. He does that all the time.
Is there any reason why he is such a priority for Georgia in the 2021 class?
“Georgia has done a phenomenal job of recruiting him,” Spence said “When they started to recruit him, they wanted to get to know him. They wanted to get to know the kid. To get to know all those things that make him such a good kid.”
Mondon has been to Georgia at least five times, including last month for a “Junior Day” event. Those trips will include visits for the Auburn game in 2018 and the season opener last fall.
Glenn Schumann has been recruiting him for some time now. He’s keyed in on all the things that Mondon brings to the table.
“Just like athletic linebackers that can run,” Mondon said. “That can help with the pass and help cover the running back.”