Former Professional Rugby Player’s Son Standing Out At American Football For Sterlington
by Jace LeJeune
Sterlington High School senior offensive lineman Payton Parks-Smith has not always called Monroe, Louisiana home. In fact, he was born outside of the United States.
“I was born in Australia and lived there until I was 4,” Parks-Smith said. “We moved over to help out my grandpa and great uncle.”
As one would imagine, moving from Australia to America was a big transition.
“Getting use to the normal things people do in the U.S. has been the biggest adjustment,” Parks-Smith said.
What also has been an adjustment for Parks-Smith is adjusting from one form of football to another. Interestingly, Parks-Smith has grown up around not American football, but rugby. In fact, his father Justin Smith was a professional Rugby League (NRL) player where he played for the St. George Illawara Dragons, South Sydney, and the North Queensland Cowboys all from 2000-2008. Watching the physicality that is rugby has helped prepare Parks-Smith for playing football.
“I’d go and practice with my dad when I younger,” Parks-Smith said. “The biggest difference between them is it is way more physical then football.”
Ever since the second grade, Parks-Smith has been accustomed to playing American football, and all that experience has helped him in playing for one of the best Class 3A football programs in Sterlington.
“I realized I could be good at football my freshman year just by being able to go against the seniors when I was a freshman,” Parks-Smith said. “It just helped me become better.”
Now, heading into his senior season, the 6-5, 285 pound offensive tackle has now been receiving some interest from college programs including the Louisiana College Wildcats because of his physical mentality and being able to finish on plays, but the upcoming senior knows that he can improve on specific areas to his game.
“I need to improve on my flexibility in my hips to help me get lower,” Thomas said.
If it was his father that taught him physicality, it was Joe Thomas from the Cleveland Browns that taught him on how to become a better offensive lineman.
“I like to go and watch some old Joe Thomas games on YouTube to see his footwork, finishing on run blocks, and watching his pass block to see what I can improve on,” Parks-Smith said.
Not only does he want to see improvement from himself, but he feels like the Panthers could make some needed steps to in order to get back to a state championship later this fall.
“My thoughts on our team this year is we have a chip on our shoulder after getting beat in the 2nd round, which has only caused for us to being working harder in the weight room and on the field,” Parks-Smith said. “Our goals for this year is bring a state championship back to Sterlington.”
Being around a professional athlete his entire life has also showed Parks-Smith that with hard work and being able to listen to coaches, anything is possible.
“I know I would be a great addition to any college program and make an impact,” Parks-Smith said. “I’m a hard worker, good listener, and love the contact and mateship of this game.”
Even though both come from two different sports, Payton Parks Smith is big, mean, tough, and physical just like his father was. It comes to show you that playing styles can match no matter the form of football.
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Jace is from Addis, LA but resides in Port Allen, LA. Jace has graduated recently from Southeastern Louisiana University with a major in Communications. Jace has also broadcasted games as a play by play announcer for Southeastern’s football and basketball games on ESPN Plus. Also, Jace has anchored and reported on Southeastern’s award winning show “The Big Game.” This is Jace’s fifth year as Associate Editor at Louisiana Football Magazine. He is also a graduate from Catholic High School in Baton Rouge where he was the editor of the school newspaper the “Bearly Published.” While at CHS, Jace also announced their football, basketball, and baseball games for the Bruin Broadcast Network which is the Catholic High’s streaming website for their events. On weekends, Jace is the PA announcer for his middle school football games. At home, Jace enjoys time with his family and friends. Besides being a huge football fan, Jace is also an avid NHRA drag racing fan.