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Jets' Geno Smith had to pick: art or football?

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 31, 2013 at 5:42 pm •  Published: July 31, 2013

CORTLAND, N.Y. (AP) — Geno Smith's brothers still have his favorite piece of artwork hanging on the wall of their mother's home.

It could be worth a pretty penny someday. For now, its value is solely sentimental.

When the New York Jets rookie quarterback was in high school, he grabbed a huge sheet of poster board, broke out a few Sharpie markers and got to work on drawing his favorite superheroes. One by one — and making sure he captured every detail — Batman, Superman, Wolverine, Captain America and Spider-Man, among others, appeared to his brothers' amazement.

"Art is something I really love," Smith said. "I have a creative mind."

Smith is locked in a tight competition with Mark Sanchez for the Jets' starting quarterback job. But the rookie wasn't always just a star on the football field. Before he went to high school in south Florida, Smith had to make a choice between throwing touchdowns and painting pictures.

"I had a passion for them both," Smith said in an interview with The Associated Press after practice Wednesday. "But I enjoy the passion for being out on the field and being with my teammates and constantly practicing and conditioning, all the challenges that come with playing football."

Smith paused for a second, and then started laughing.

"And, in art," he said, "you really don't get famous until you're dead."

He already has the fame stuff down, especially after a record-breaking career at West Virginia University. Smith was perhaps the biggest name available in the draft in April, but slipped from the first to the second round — and the frowns from his disappointment were caught on camera at Radio City Music Hall.

He also made headlines when he fired his agents and signed on with hip-hop artist Jay-Z's sports agency. Smith raised some eyebrows again when he opted to work out on his own in Florida rather than attend Sanchez's Jets West camp in southern California.

It's the kind of tumultuous few months that can create some pretty interesting and introspective artwork.

"I don't draw as much anymore, but I still doodle, yeah, in my notepads," Smith said. "I caught myself just drawing a picture the other day and it said, 'Practice Better.' That was kind of a message to myself."

The love for art began as a little kid, when he saw his sister, Kiyondra Talley, drawing things he could only dream of.

"She was kind of like a prodigy," Smith said. "She could paint anything and it would look spot on. I wasn't really that good, to be honest with you. I was a couple of years younger than her, and it made me kind of mad that she was so good.

"I took it upon myself to try to be better than her, so I just developed a love for it."

He and his buddies started small, with cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse and Dragon Ball Z. Around fourth or fifth grade, Smith began trying to draw portraits of family members.

"I'd just take pictures in my house and sit down for hours upon hours and just draw them," he said. "I'd ball up papers and throw them away until I got the right one."

Tracey Sellers, Smith's mother, recognized her son was talented in the classroom — at art and academics — and placed him in gifted programs. He was so advanced, it was recommended he be moved up a few grades. But Sellers wanted him to stay with his peers and not move through school too quickly.

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