Rachel Von Stroup | The Journal Gazette Jaylon Smith speaks Friday after receiving his Red Coat from the Mad Anthonys.
Rachel Von Stroup | The Journal Gazette Local businessman John Tippmann Sr. receives his Red Coat from Doug McKibben during the Mad Anthonys Red Coat Dinner on Friday.
Rachel Von Stroup | The Journal Gazette Jaylon Smith is presented with a birthday cake for his birthday during the Mad Anthony's Red Coat Dinner at Fort Wayne Country Club on Friday June 14, 2019.
Saturday, June 15, 2019 1:00 am
Red Coat adds to Smith's birthday
Former Luers, Irish star receives Mad Anthonys' honor
ELIZABETH WYMAN | The Journal Gazette
Growing up in Fort Wayne, Jaylon Smith has spent most of his birthdays here in town.
The former Bishop Luers and Notre Dame standout football player and current Dallas Cowboy made his 24th a special one Friday back in his hometown at the Fort Wayne Country Club, where the crowded room sang “Happy Birthday” and Smith was given a cake.
The linebacker, alongside local businessman John Tippmann Sr., received Red Coats from the Mad Anthonys. The award is given to business professionals and people who have made positive impacts on communities.
“I'm 24 years old and it's just the beginning,” Smith said, sporting his glossy red shoes to match the pristine red coat that has been awarded to governors, athletes, coaches and astronauts before him.
“This is a blessing,” he added. “For me, being born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana, understanding the great people that have just been fantastic to this city and our culture. For me to be a part of this is a wonderful thing.”
Smith joins a lengthy list of award recipients with Notre Dame connections. Last year, coach Brian Kelly earned the Red Coat. Football coaches Lou Holtz, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Terry Brennan have also held the honor, in addition to a plethora of former players.
The Red Coat isn't the only honor Smith recently received. This spring he fulfilled his promise to his mother of finishing his college degree – a bachelor's in film and television.
“Whatever you start you want to finish,” Smith said. “I made a pact to my mother when I entered the draft early and left after my junior year that I would finish. It's something that was lingering on. I finished my third year in the league, and I told myself I was going to go back and finish and hand my mother the degree.”
Entering his fourth NFL season with the Cowboys, Smith said he's learning every day, which is helping the game slow down for him.
“We've had a great OTA (offseason training activities) and minicamp, back in shape and eager to get started on the season,” he said.
Smith won't be away from Fort Wayne for long, as he and brother Rod, a member of the New York Giants, will host their annual football camp this summer. In addition, Smith will host his inaugural Jaylon Smith Minority Entrepreneurship Institute on July 12. While most known for his football skills, Smith said his purpose beyond athletics is entrepreneurship.
“Personally, being a business owner, investor I've gathered the access that I've been able to gain through networking and meeting the right people. For me, I wanted to be able to have this feeling and being able to share this with people that look like me – the minorities, black, brown, Latino. It's about closing the economic and educational gap.”
Tippmann, also a Fort Wayne native, has long carried on his family name in the business world. He's the founder and chairman of the Tippmann Group, which includes Interstate Warehousing, Tippmann Construction and Tippmann Properties.
“I am truly humbled when I see some of the people that have received this award in the past,” Tippmann said. “Very famous people have received this and then you got little old me. I'm still OK with that. I'm honored, even though I'm humbled, by being with the other people that have received this award.”
The two Red Coat recipients will be back at Fort Wayne Country Club today for the golf classic. Last year, the Mad Anthonys raised nearly $2.5 million for Hope House, where families with a hospitalized child stay.