Canaan Smith-Njigba had a night to remember on Monday. The rookie Pirates outfielder earned the first RBI of his career by slicing a double off the Green Monster, and he did it in front of his closest friend -- his younger brother, Jaxon.
Canaan may be the pro athlete of the family, but he'll soon have company. Jaxon, the pass-catching machine out of Ohio State, is considered one of the top wide receivers in this year's NFL draft. He's best known for delivering a Rose Bowl for the ages with 347 receiving yards last year, and big brother sees a natural fit with the Patriots.
"I know they like him," he said. "They need him. They need a receiver. Bill Belichick, he knows the type of player Jaxon is. He knows he's a winner and it's all about team. So why not?"
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The Patriots currently sit 14th in the first round, and even after signing JuJu Smith-Schuster, wide receiver remains a glaring area of need. Jaxon Smith-Njigba took in Monday's Red Sox-Pirates game from the left field grandstand and told NESN's Jahmai Webster that he loved his visit to Boston and could envision calling it his NFL home.
Canaan said his brother didn't meet with the Patriots on Monday – the team recently visited him at Ohio State – but that wasn't the point.
New England Patriots
"He'll see them later," he said. "Right now, he's here to see me."
Appearing in just his sixth career game on Monday, the 23-year-old Smith-Njigba went 1 for 2 with a walk and two RBIs in Pittsburgh's 7-6 victory. Making the moment more special, the Red Sox were his favorite team growing up just outside of Dallas (he loved David Ortiz), and he said they nearly drafted him in 2017 before the Yankees took him in the fourth round.
"A dream come true," Canaan Smith-Njigba said. "Very exciting. I love having my family here, because I always feel like when they're here, something usually good happens. I'm just glad they could make the trip, especially having my little brother here. That's my best friend. That's my rock. Him being there, I know I'm an inspiration to him – when I do good things, he does better things."
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, 20, was limited to three games last year by a hamstring injury, but he had already shown how explosive he could be during a monster sophomore season, when he caught 95 passes for 1,606 yards, including the 15 for 347 and three scores vs. Utah in the Rose Bowl, as well as a 15-240-1 breakout against Nebraska.
"He's very tough," Canaan said. "We're from Texas. We pride ourselves on that. I used to feel like I was Nick Saban when I was a kid and yell at him if he dropped something. He'd be five years old and I'd throw the ball as hard as I could for him to catch it. So he's built for the moment, he loves the pressure and he's going to make the most of it every time."
Canaan is protective of his younger brother, who is viewed by some as more of a slot receiver than all-around downfield threat. Big brother scoffs at that characterization, noting that Jaxon ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at Ohio State's pro day.
So how about the Patriots? Any chance he lands in Foxboro?
"I don't think he's there at 14," Canaan said. "I hope the Patriots trade up and that can happen, but he's a Wide Receiver 1, for sure. He's a guy who can do it all. He's a slot, you can mix and match there, but he's going to play outside and inside.
"I can't wait for him to shut everybody up, just like he did with his 40. He's a guy that is going to make plays because he is always open. He's a great fit no matter what. Just throw him the ball. Throw him the ball 13 times, he's going to win you a game. So let him go win you a game."