MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Jamari Smith was supposed to graduate from Lee High School next week. He was supposed to receive his state basketball ring later this summer after helping the Generals win their first title in school history, and he was supposed to attend the University of Alabama-Birmingham this fall to play football.
But, he won’t walk the stage, or put that ring on his finger. He won’t be suiting up for the Blazers in August.
The teen drowned while visiting Chewacala State Park on Wednesday.
“His passing yesterday has been very tragic news for us, and the Lee Nation is definitely saddened and gripped by this,” said Lee High School Principal Dr. Antjuan Marsh. “Our heart goes out to his family and close friends.”
Although he spent just one season with the Generals, Jamari’s reach extended across town. Lee High School Athletic Director Tyrone Rogers watched Jamari grow up, and says he most admired the senior’s ability to impact other people.
“We’ve lost a young man that had so much promise athletically, but even more so just the type of person he was,” said Rogers. “He just had a glowing, magnetic type of personality that everybody wants to be around, and that’s what I’m gonna most remember about Jamari, is how much joy he brought to everybody. I can see a lot of kids wanting to be like him, and he was doing it the right way.”
Doing things the right way included excelling in the classroom. Marsh says Jamari was always pleasant in the hallways, and made sure his grades were always a priority.
“He’s definitely been an impact person on our campus,” he said. “He was an outstanding student inside the classroom as well. I would say he was loved by the faculty, loved by his peers, and not only by Lee High School, but by the Montgomery general, too.”
Jamari also found ways to help the community by giving back. During the state basketball tournament, he and the rest of the boys basketball team decided to give a homeless man snacks, water and money.
In the same weekend, Jamari befriended the son of a UAB staff member. When the Generals won the 7A State Title, Jamari and his teammates donated their shoes to their new friend.
“[UAB] was looking forward to Chop becoming part of UAB, and that kid and his family would have definitely been their rooting for Chop,” said Marsh.
Blazers head coach Bill Clark says he was looking forward to getting the wide receiver on campus this fall, and extended his condolences to the family.
“I got to know him and his family kind of late in the recruiting process. Obviously, people saw what kind of competitor he was, but he was just a guy with a smile on his face,” said Clark. “His parents were very involved and very excited about him coming to us, so we’re just heartbroken.”
While he may be physically gone, the staff at Lee High says his name will live on in the halls of the school.
"He loved his community, he loved his family, he loved his mom, and he had a lot to offer to the city of Montgomery,” said Rogers. “I think his legacy is that he’s already a household name. It’ll be one that goes on for a long time as one of the best athletes to come out of Montgomery.”
“We knew that he was going to continue to be an ambassador for Lee High School and represent us well, and represent his family well, and so that will always be a treasure,” added Marsh. “He not only represents Lee, but other Montgomery Public Schools."