Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba makes a one-handed catch during a game against the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 23 in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ben VanHouten)

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba makes a one-handed catch during a game against the San Francisco 49ers on Nov. 23 in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ben VanHouten)

Seahawks’ Smith-Njigba’s confidence ‘sky high’ ahead of Dallas homecoming

The rookie made a spectacular one-handed catch against San Francisco last week.

  • Bob Condotta, The Seattle Times
  • Tuesday, November 28, 2023 4:15pm
  • SportsSeahawks

RENTON — The last time Seahawks receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba played at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, which might be better known as Jerry World, the home of the Dallas Cowboys, he scored six touchdowns.

Those scores helped propel his high-school team, Rockwall, to a 60-59 win over Allen High School in a second-round playoff game, a contest some local observers called one of the best in recent Texas high-school history.

“That was a huge game for everyone,” Smith-Njigba, who finished with 15 catches for 258 yards, said modestly this week.

Smith-Njigba almost certainly won’t match those numbers the next time he plays at Jerry World — Thursday night for the Seahawks against the Dallas Cowboys — as he makes a homecoming. Rockwall is about 40 miles from Jerry World, and Smith-Njigba will have a healthy contingent of family and friends on hand.

But few of his coaches or teammates will be surprised by anything he might do after Thursday night, when Smith-Njigba turned in maybe the most spectacular play of Seattle’s season with a body-twisting, one-handed catch of a Geno Smith pass that turned a third-and-9 into a 34-yard completion.

The play was the longest gain of the game for Seattle and helped propel the team’s best offensive drive, setting up a field goal in the third quarter of an eventual 31-13 loss.

That it came during an otherwise dreary night meant the team couldn’t really celebrate it properly, coach Pete Carroll said on his radio show on Seattle Sports 710 this week while calling it “a phenomenal moment.”

Still, coaches and teammates this week continued to marvel at the play.

“Seeing how he adjusted one way, and then turned the other way and then caught it with one hand was crazy,” DK Metcalf said.

Or as offensive coordinator Shane Waldron said Monday, “It was unbelievable.”

Waldron had about as good of a view of it as there could be, standing mere feet away on the sidelines as Smith-Njigba contorted and reached out with his right hand to grab the ball, then used his left to help brace for a fall to the turf and hang on.

“I feel like that was one of those rare catches where the slow-motion replays don’t do the justice to it as (being) on the sideline,” Waldron said. “I’m standing right there and looking at the ball in the air thinking, ‘I don’t know if he’s going to be able to even get a fingertip on the ball right there.’ And then sure enough. … It was just so impressive to then be able to finish the catch through landing on the ground right there in a locked-up position. Just an unbelievable play that really displays his ball-tracking skills to a T right there, where you can picture him whether it’s Jaxon or Willie Mays.”

Said Smith-Njigba with a smile Monday when asked how it looked on film: “I was pleased with it. Good catch. Hopefully there are some more down the road.”

Smith-Njigba said he looked up and saw the ball “and realized that if I wanted to have a chance, I just had to adjust and flip back and reach for it, and that’s what I did.”

The catch was spectacular enough to compel Carroll to say this week that the Seahawks have to figure out how to get the ball to Smith-Njigba even more.

“We just need to give him more chances,” Carroll said.

Indeed, Smith-Njigba has begun to round into form over the last two months after a slow start that followed a preseason wrist injury that required surgery.

Smith-Njigba has 26 catches for 344 yards over the last seven games, an average of 13.2 per reception.

“I definitely think his confidence is sky high right now,” Waldron said.

That comes at a good time with Smith-Njigba approaching a game he admits he’s looked forward to all season.

Smith-Njigba said he attended a few Cowboys games growing up and played a few times at the stadium. The first time, he said, was as a fifth grader.

“It’s huge for me honestly to be back and see all the family, be back in my hometown not too far from the stadium,” he said. “I’m excited to get back home, get back to Texas. Been a long time. I’m a Texas kid through and through.”

And he hopes to maybe do something to make the night memorable.

In February, before he knew which NFL team he would be playing for, Smith-Njigba reposted a video on the social platform X that featured video of his six-TD performance against Allen, quoting, “I’m going to turn up every time in Jerrys world” with a smiley face.

The vagaries of the NFL draft meant Smith-Njigba might have had to wait years to play again in Jerry World.

Instead, it’s coming in the 12th game of his rookie season after he was taken 20th overall in the first round by the Seahawks.

“It’s a privilege to come back home and be on the Seahawks, having this being my road to coming back and playing there,” he said.

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