1. Sports

College career of FIU player, NFL prospect ends when girlfriend douses him with boiling water

Florida International tight end Jonnu Smith runs to score a touchdown as Middle Tennessee safety Jovante Moffatt defends during a game in Octover in Miami. [AP photo]
Published Nov. 10, 2016

The college career of FIU senior tight end Jonnu Smith, the team's premier offensive player over his four seasons and easily the Panthers' best 2017 NFL Draft prospect, ended on Halloween when his girlfriend doused him with boiling water. According to the arrest affidavit, Smith suffered severe burns on his head, neck, back, a shoulder and an arm.

Miami Gardens resident Mary Gaspar, five months pregnant with Smith's child, was charged with aggravated battery. Gaspar has been released on a pre-trial release order.

The early 2017 NFL Draft projections have Smith as either a late round pick or undrafted free agent. He made the midseason John Mackey Award (Best College Tight End) watch list in 2014 and 2015 and the preseason Mackey Award watch list in 2015 and 2016.

The arrest affidavit said Gaspar gave this account at Florida International University police headquarters:

The two argued through the day over the attention Smith was paying her and their relationship. While in Smith's dorm room and "feeling extremely emotional and stressed," she told police, she boiled a pot of water. Then, she walked over to Smith and poured it on him.

When Smith didn't react strongly enough for her, she started hitting him with her open hands, she told police.

The extent of the burns aren't known, but Smith has been seen back on campus even though he's not fit for the football field.

The 6-3, 232-pound Smith from Ocala West Port High finishes his FIU career fifth in career receptions (175), career receiving yards (1,936) and third in touchdown catches (17). He holds the FIU records for touchdown catches in a game (three) and a season (eight), sharing the latter with wide receiver Thomas Owens.

Smith quickly shined as a freshman amid FIU's dismal, abysmal 2013 offense. While FIU went 1-11 in its first Conference USA season and first under head coach Ron Turner, Smith led the team with 39 receptions for 388 yards. Turner doubly embraced Smith — the offense features the tight end prominently and the coach figured he didn't have to worry about trouble from the low-key, religious Smith.

No tight end in the country owned better numbers in 2014 than Smith, the national leader among tight ends in receptions (61), receiving yards (710) and touchdowns (eight). He had no Conference USA peer for First Team All-Conference honors. named him an Honorable Mention All-America. Other national websites lauded Smith's production despite playing with a freshman quarterback and without consistent threats at wide receiver.

In a wild 38-28 win against Middle Tennessee State, Smith scored three touchdowns as FIU came from 21-3 down. Smith barged through two would-be tacklers on a 10-yard touchdown catch; caught a 40-yard "Hail Mary" heave for a touchdown to end the first half; and picked up a teammate's fumbled reception and ran it the rest of the way for another touchdown.

Smith's numbers dropped early in his junior season as opposing defenses made stopping him a priority. That allowed for the emergence of other receiving threats, such as Owens. But Owens rise drew defensive attention, thus opening the field for Smith later in the season. He rolled up a career high 10 catches for 183 yards and two touchdowns against Old Dominion and did so partially while playing on a sprained left knee.

He played no more in 2015, his season ended four games early by that knee injury. This year, injuries to starting junior quarterback Alex McGough and erratic play from McGough and redshirt freshman backup Maurice Alexander helped limit Smith to 39 catches for 441 yards and three touchdowns.

Without Smith and McGough, who eventually suffered his own season-ending injury Oct. 29 against Middle Tennessee State, FIU lost to Western Kentucky last Saturday 49-21. The loss ended the 3-7 Panthers chances of reaching six wins and bowl eligibility.


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