MOBILE, Ala. -- The relationship began as a rivalry.
In middle school, Jason Smith and Carl Lee each played quarterback for opposing teams in different divisions. The two faced each other only when it was for the championship, and it looked destined to be that way through high school and beyond.
“I thought we were always going to compete against each other,” Smith said.
That all changed when Lee moved to Houston before his freshman year. With the two separated, it looked like they would never get the opportunity to go against each other on the field again, a potential rivalry never to happen.
While it’s true that the two still haven’t played each other since the move, it’s no longer because of the move. It’s because the two are now teammates, playing for McGill Toolen High School.
Lee hit a growth spurt and moved back to Mobile as a 6-foot-4 wide receiver. He quickly became Smith’s favorite target last year, and the two have formed an undeniable connection.
“With his size, it helps big time, and the physicality he brings to the table and his speed, he’s my go-to man,” Smith said. “I felt that nobody could stop both of us. If it was one-on-one with him matched up on a corner, I always have faith in my man that I know he’s going to win that battle.”
In his first year at McGill Toolen, coach Bart Sessions noticed that connection between his quarterback and receiver. It was that connection that helped lead the Yellow Jackets to an 11-2 record and a perfect 7-0 mark in the region.
“Those kids, they did form a bond in drills and things,” Sessions said. “It’s just natural I guess for a big-time receiver and a big-time quarterback to bond a little bit … Anytime you’re dealing with 6-foot-4 receivers, he’s easy to spot. That’s the first thing. I don’t know that Jason looks to target Carl so much as it’s easy to find Carl.”
The bond between Smith and Lee has not only led to success on the field, but it’s also led to individual rewards off of it when it comes to recruiting. Both prospects have SEC offers and a bright future ahead of them.
“They’re two very good players,” Sessions said. “At the end of the day, they’re both going to be very highly ranked and we’re really looking forward to those guys. They’re going to have to be a big part of anything we do.”
Smith may be the more highly regarded of the two. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound athlete has offers from in-state powers Alabama and Auburn, as well as offers from Arkansas State, Ole Miss, Troy and UAB. He’s hearing from Louisville and Tennessee as well.
At this point, every school that has offered has told him they will give him a chance at quarterback, including Alabama, but he may ultimately have to make a move to another position, similar to what Lee did.
At the Crimson Tide’s last junior day, UA head coach Nick Saban talked to him about the possibility of playing multiple positions at the next level.
“He was straight forward, and he was telling me how it is,” Smith said. “Coming from an athlete to the quarterback position, he was just telling me that I can be interchangeable. I should look at my future. Instead of what I want now, look into the future and (see) what position I should be playing in the future.”
For Lee, he’s already made his move to wide receiver, and the interest is just starting to pick up. He already has an SEC offer from Ole Miss, but his head coach believes more could be on the way this spring.
“There are a lot of big schools, both big ones in this state, that are right on the edge of offering,” Sessions said. “I think he’s a kid who could really blow up this spring.”
For two former rivals back in middle school, the path to stardom hasn’t quite gone the way they envisioned. Instead of two quarterbacks meeting in the state championship game as seniors, one is throwing passes to the other with the goal of winning a title together.
“I think that we’re going to make it even farther this year because I know we’re hungry,” Smith said.