Jonnu Smith, FIU’s top NFL prospect, had his collegiate career come to an end after suffering burns on his head, neck, arms and back after his girlfriend poured boiling water on him on Halloween.
Mary Gaspar, Smith’s girlfriend, was charged with aggravated battery the Miami Herald reported. Gaspar is five months pregnant with their child. Gaspar entered a not guilty plea.
Smith had been considered a late-round 2017 NFL Draft pick or undrafted free agent. He was on the John Mackey Award watch list given to the best collegiate tight end.
According to the Herald, Gaspar gave this account in the arrest affidavit:
Smith and Gaspar had argued during the day about the amount of attention Smith was paying to her. While in his dorm room, “feeling extremely emotional and stressed” she boiled a pot of water, then walked over to Smith and poured it on him. When Smith didn’t respond strongly enough for her, she began hitting him with her open hands.
The Herald reported that Smith is back on campus, but is unfit to play. The extent of his injuries are not known. In his last game, the 38-28 victory against Middle Tennessee State on Oct. 29, Smith had six catches for 75 yards and one touchdown. For the season he was limited to 39 catches for 441 yards and three TDs.
While considered a small by NFL standards for a tight end, the 6-3, 230-pound Smith would love to play on Sundays next year. “I’d play center if I could play in the NFL,” he said.
His backup plan is to join the Secret Service to catch bad guys after he graduates in May.
Former FIU head coach Ron Turner called Smith a leader both on and off the field.
He ventures off FIU’s Miami campus regularly, coaching kids with disabilities in football, visiting elementary schools, discussing healthy lifestyle with youngsters. He also brings small groups of kids on school grounds so that he might show them around, let them know there are possibilities they might never have considered.
“The sky’s the limit,” he said. “That’s what I try to preach to the kids: ‘Don’t ever let anybody tell you you can’t achieve or do anything. You are all capable of doing anything that you put your mind to.’”
He believes his own horizons were expanded by his mother Karen who used to bring him along to her job as a Meals on Wheels coordinator in his hometown of Philadelphia. She’s the one who first made him want to look outside himself, who made him consider others’ circumstances.
She became something more to Jonnu and his five older siblings (four sisters, as well as his brother) in April 2000, when her husband Wayne, a tow-truck driver, died at age 40 in an accident.
“She took on that father role,” Jonnu said, “as well as that mother role.”
Above: Courtesy of Sam Lewis/FIU Athletics