James Clemens soccer standout bounces back from injury and signs with Michigan State
MADISON – It was August 2022 and James Clemens student Jared Smid was playing his first game of the fall season of club soccer for Alabama FC in Charleston, South Carolina when something went wrong with his right knee.
The match was on artificial turf and Smid had just torn his ACL.
“I realized I was still able to run and jump all thanks to adrenaline,” Smid said.
“Yet in the back of my mind, I knew something was wrong.”
Jared’s coach asked him if he could go back in, and the midfielder knew that no was the right answer.
Smid was confused about what was going on with his knee and how he couldn’t pinpoint it.
When Jared had an MRI on his knee to survey the damage, it didn’t even feel real to him.
The months that followed would be full of rehabilitation and hard work to get back to the player that he used to be.
Jared remembers that it was even hard to walk let alone think of playing soccer again as he tried to return.
With the injury coming in August of a year ago, this also meant the end of Smid’s career with James Clemens who would resume play in the spring of 2023.
In his two years with the Jets as a freshman and sophomore, Smid left his mark on the program, and it was crystal clear to his coach at JC Jared Keesee that he was going somewhere.
“Of course, he consistently showed high levels of skill with his touches, passes and vision,” Keesee said.
“Which would draw praise even from opposing coaches, but his ability to seemingly be everywhere forced everyone to notice him.”
James Clemens utilized GPS tracking technology his sophomore year and Smid was almost always top two on the team in distance covered and sprints of over 20 yards.
Jared was also the most fouled player on the team by significant margins in both of his seasons with the Jets.
“He was just impossible to overlook,” Keesee said.
“Dropping perfectly placed passes into the run of a striker from 50-plus yards out certainly didn’t hurt his stock with college coaches either.”
As Jared rehabbed his knee and clawed his way back to form, he maintained the mentality he has always had as a soccer player.
“Becoming the best version of myself,” Smid said.
“Whether it’s as a player or as an individual. My teammates are also my opponents as I want to become better than them as well.”
Jared credits his teammates with James Clemens for helping get him to where he is now as a player and as a person off the pitch.
“Spending all the time playing, training and traveling with them truly brought us together,” Smid said.
“They’ve always been supporting me, through both highs and lows. And they’ve urged me to purse this next chapter.”
Jared’s time with the Jets might have been taken from him prematurely, but his love of the game and year-round play in club ball caught the eyes of several colleges.
Smid had interest from William and Mary, Davidson, West Point, UPenn, Brown, North Greenville University and even UAH.
But there was only one school that offered Jared, and it was far more high-profile than any of those aforementioned soccer programs.
Smid was competing at a national tournament in San Diego when Michigan State saw the midfielder and the Spartans wanted to get Jared in the green and white, so they reached out in June of 2022.
The James Clemens Jet has since been up to East Lancing, Michigan twice with visits in January and July of this year.
When he received a formal offer from Michigan State, he jumped at the opportunity to play in the Big Ten conference against the likes of Michigan and Ohio State and signed with the Spartans on November 8.
A player who prefers colder temperatures when on the field for matches, Jared welcomes the challenge that awaits him after high school.
And that moment is practically here because Smid is graduating early from James Clemens in December.
“I definitely have mixed emotions,” Smid said.
“I’m extremely excited to further my career as both a student and an athlete. This has been a dream of mine for a while, and I want to get it started as soon as possible. However, it’ll be a huge change of scenery, leaving my parents and friends back home for a couple of months.”
The drive north from James Clemens to Michigan State is a long one spanning over 650 miles that takes roughly 10 hours to make.
But this is only the beginning of a journey that Jared hopes will lead him possibly into a professional soccer career down the road.
“I believe that I’d be happy playing anywhere, no matter the division,” Smid said.
“Though it would be amazing to play in Europe. The style of soccer (futbol) is so fast-paced and team-oriented it’s awe-inspiring.”
A Chelsea supporter who draws inspiration from players like the French midfielder N’Golo Kante and Manchester City’s dynamic midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, Smid looks to impact Michigan State with a similar playmaking prowess.
There might be a moment someday.
It could be in a World Cup Match for the United States or maybe some game under the lights in LaLiga.
It might even be a Saturday morning match in the English Premier League and there is kid who is subbed into the game named Jared Smid, an American who played college soccer at Michigan State.
The broadcasters will talk about how he turned heads in college and his hometown is a little place called Madison, Alabama.
Before he was a pro, he was a Spartan and before he was a Spartan, he was a Jet and he will never forget that.