Jeff Jacobs: Walter Camp Player of Year DeVonta Smith a (hair) cut above the rest

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Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the College Football Playoff Semifinal Rose Bowl Game against Notre Dame last week. Smith was named the Walter Camp Player of the Year on Thursday.

Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the College Football Playoff Semifinal Rose Bowl Game against Notre Dame last week. Smith was named the Walter Camp Player of the Year on Thursday.

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

DeVonta Smith has his own special handpicked hair stylist. And if that sounds a bit snobbish or like just another diva wide receiver, well, you don’t know DeVonta Smith of Amite City, Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana.

Smith, who was named Walter Camp Player of the Year on Thursday night, is amassing trophies that will end up weighing more than he did in high school.

Let’s see, the Alabama wide receiver was named the winner of the Heisman Trophy and Associated Press College Football Player of the Year. He was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year, the winner of the Paul Hornung Award as college’s most versatile player, the Biletnikoff Award as outstanding wide receiver and now the Walter Camp Award.

Smith pulled in a 41-yard overtime touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa to dramatically give Alabama the national championship against Georgia as a freshman and has gone on to make enough electrifying catches after The Catch over his career to blow out transformers across the South. In the end, Smith’s numbers and impact were simply too terrific to ignore.

That’s why he is the first wide receiver to win the Walter Camp since Larry Fitzgerald in 2003.

That’s why he is the first wide receiver to win the Heisman since Desmond Howard in 1991.

Not bad for a kid who weighed, oh, a buck forty-five as a high school sophomore seriously considering a path in basketball after breaking his collarbone in football.

“The Walter Camp Award means a lot,” Smith said. “To be nominated for an award like this with a bunch of guys who are just as good as me, if not better, it’s a blessing.”

If that sounds fairly impressive in its humility, you’re beginning to understand DeVonta Smith.

That handpicked hair stylist? Well, it’s actually the same barbershop he’s always gone to in tiny Amite, some 70 miles north of New Orleans, since he was 2.

You know what Smith calls Vincent Sanders?

“My mentor.”

We’ll let Smith tell the story.

“His dad (George) and my grandfather were great friends, so I was going to the barbershop with my grandfather. He only cut on Tuesdays. So it was always a Tuesday. Mostly, older people were there. I’d be the youngest one in the place.

“Being around them, laughing at the things they were talking about. He’d always take me to the store and got me some candy and something to drink every time I went in there.”

Vincent Sanders, a big man now a half-century old, started cutting Smith’s hair and never stopped. And when he cuts, they talked. About everything, Smith said. Lots of stuff away from football, important stuff to a kid growing up.

Sanders talked to Mike Rodak of the Alabama Media Group and explained to him what he had said to Smith when he wanted to give up football: “I told him, ‘You’re young. We’re gonna put muscle mass on you. You’re going to be OK. But at the end of the day, it’s your call.’ I just basically told him, ‘You’re gifted, bro. There’s something you’ve got in you that other people don’t have. You’re maneuvering around five-star defensive backs like they’re in kindergarten.’”

At 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, Smith is still not huge, but plenty big enough for 105 catches, 1,641 yards and 20 touchdowns in the 12 victories leading into the national championship against Ohio State. If you’ve seen him dunk a basketball at 6-1 on video, you can understand how high this guy can jump. And by the time he had won the Heisman Trophy on Tuesday night, there was Smith thanking his mentor/barber on ESPN.

“Without you,” Smith said, “I wouldn’t be where I am today, just from the rise to taking me places that I want to visit, just to doing things and just helping me get to where I am.”

Sanders still makes the trip from Amite to Tuscaloosa every few weeks — a drive of over four hours — to cut Smith’s hair.

“Or whenever I need him,” Smith said.

Folks around the country were touched Tuesday night as ESPN cameras caught Smith’s mom and dad, essentially the Amite community filling the town’s community center to watch the ceremonies. When Smith’s name was announced, they jumped up and stood there cheering for 45 seconds. It was grand.

And, remember, this is a town deep in LSU territory.

Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) catches a touchdown pass while defended by Notre Dame's Nick McCloud in the second half of the Rose Bowl in Arlington, Texaslast week. Smith was named the Walter Camp Player of the Year on Thursday.

Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) catches a touchdown pass while defended by Notre Dame’s Nick McCloud in the second half of the Rose Bowl in Arlington, Texaslast week. Smith was named the Walter Camp Player of the Year on Thursday.

Michael Ainsworth / Associated Press

“I wouldn’t say it was really hard to pick Alabama,” Smith said. “It was the right situation for me. I felt a whole lot better after making the decision and finally signing the papers. I felt relieved I got that part over with.”

So your schoolmates and community didn’t give you a hard time?

“Nah, not at all” Smith said.

He said his favorite receiver growing up was the Chargers’ perennial Pro Bowler Keenan Allen. It’s interesting that Allen, considered the nation’s top defensive back coming out of high school, committed to Alabama as a safety before switching to California as a wideout. Smith worked out with defensive backs in the spring before his freshman season before settling into wide receiver.

“I was so impressed with Keenan Allen’s attention to detail in his routes,” Smith said. “I was prepared for when my number was called (for that national championship winning catch). Watching Calvin Ridley and the older guys showing me things that needed to be done, it made me ready for it.”

Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, Ridley, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, now Smith and Jaylen Waddle, Alabama put together an elite stable of receivers over a decade.

“Those older guys laid it out how it was supposed to be around here,” Smith said. “I’m following their footsteps. I’m glad to be in the conversation with them.”

In addition to Sanders, he wanted to give a shoutout to Christopher Gordon, his wide receiver coach for two years and defensive coordinator for the final two in high school.

“They’ve been on me about everything, making sure I was doing the right stuff and headed in the right direction,” Smith said.

That kid known as Tay-Tay, doing pushups everywhere, every day to get stronger in high school, looked all GQ on national TV Tuesday night. His newer nickname, Slim Reaper, fit nicely.

In a velvet suit jacket and bow tie, with that tight, perfect haircut, Smith was the fashion topic of sports America. He could have been from 1940, 1960, 1980, 2000 or 2020. His look was timeless. And sitting there with his quarterback Mac Jones, one of the Heisman finalists, man, they could have been from 1946.

That was the last time three players from one team were among the top five Heisman vote-getters — Army’s Glenn Davis (who won it) along with Doc Blanchard and Arnold Tucker. Sixty-four years later, it is Jones and running back Najee Harris along with Smith.

“We didn’t say much at all among ourselves beforehand (about the awards),” Smith said. “But it shows a lot about this program. It means a lot about everybody coming in and working every day to do the things they have to do. The work that you put in, you are going to get the results you want.

“Mac is very dedicated, he dives into all the little things of this team. He’s a leader. We have a really good relationship. We always watch film and talk about things we see in defenses.”

When the Heisman was announced, as the town of Amite stood and cheered, Jones stood up, hugged Smith and told him how proud he was and how he loved him.

DeVonta Smith is going to be a high NFL first-round pick this spring and first-round picks need to look fresh. Is Sanders going to travel even to a distant city to cut his hair?

“That’s the plan,” he said.

jeff.jacobs@hearstmediact.com; @jeffjacobs123