Oh snap! Matoaca center follows love of photography to the FBI

Oh snap! Matoaca center follows love of photography to the FBI
Posted at 10:31 PM, Aug 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-25 23:34:41-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Matoaca High School student Jamal Smith has a lot of confidence heading into the 2022 football season.

"I think we're going to be absolutely amazing," Smith said. "Hopefully, we're 11-0 this year instead of 9-2 like last year."

Smith was part of last year's team that had the best regular season in school history.

This season, he's learning a new position on the offensive line, something for which he's been practicing all off-season.

"I think the center's job is harder because you have to make sure the snap is on point and right," he said. "Have good speed on the ball. You can't mess up on the snap or you could get a fumble."

"Jamal is one of those kids. Right back into the weight room. Right back into working hard, to learning, to doing what they are supposed to do," Matoaca's new head coach Fred Stoots said.

Learning is something else Smith does well.

If he's not on the football field, he's capturing his surroundings through photography.

Smith's work behind the lens was good enough to be entered in the school's art fair last year.

"It's not unusual to see him going around school with a camera taking pictures," Stoots said.

A love of learning and photography took Smith in a direction this summer for which he never could prepare.

Smith's mother saw an ad for a two-day training academy with the Richmond Field Office for the FBI. Whether she asked him about his interest in even going to it is up for debate.

"She kinda did, but not really," Smith said.

But the student dutifully filled out the application and wrote an essay on why he should be selected out of nearly 100 applications statewide. What he wrote got him noticed.

"His essay was very heartfelt. It was very personable. It really stood out amongst all the different essays I read," FBI Specialist Leslie McLane said.

Over the two-day camp, Smith's opinion of federal law enforcement changed, as did his interest in a possible career.

"We have students who apply who know this is what they want to do and then we have students like Jamal who are a little on the fence," McLane said. "We're hoping that by going through the academy we've whet some appetites and planted the seed for future recruitment."

Jamal Smith is now considering merging his love of photography with an FBI career as a crime scene photographer. His work ethic and diligence make it something of a safe bet for his future.

"He's a hard-working guy and he's always looking for something that can make him better. That's kind of something we focus on and trying to be a well-rounded person," Stoots said. "I think whatever goal he sets his mind to, he's going to work hard to achieve it."

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