Brad Smith’s mother made one thing clear to her three children. No matter how little they had and how challenging it was for them to get by, they would not take any handouts.
“After my parents divorced when I was about six, my brother and sister and I moved with our mother from Los Angeles to Youngstown, Ohio,” Brad said. “My mom really raised us singlehandedly.”
Times were difficult, Brad remembers, but his mother’s strength was obvious to one and all.“My mother was an example of what faith meant if you were a Christian. We all went to church willingly; it wasn’t like my mother ever had to drag us. Church was our family, so of course we wanted to be there. And by being there, we learned about God at about the Bible. It affected how I looked at things and how I made decisions.”
Moreover, attending church brought Brad the most compelling father figure he would ever have, in the form of the late Bishop Norman Wagner, who remained a part of Brad’s life until the pastor’s death in 2010. “Throughout my teenage and college years and even after that, I would call him whenever I needed to talk to someone,” Brad said. “We’d talk about football, and then he’d ask me about other things going on in my life and how I was handling them.”
The pastor wasn’t his only male role model. He cites great coaches he had ever since boyhood, and particularly his coach at Youngstown Chaney High School, Ron Berdis. A strong athlete since childhood, Brad played football throughout his childhood and teenage years. His efforts paid off when he was offered the opportunity to play football for the University of Missouri – only to be red-shirted his first season.
For some young men this can be a morale-buster, Brad concedes; being seen as an athletic star throughout high school only to watch others take their turn on the field for a whole year takes a toll on some college players’ psyches, but that wasn’t the case for him. “I’ve always enjoyed playing football,” he said nonchalantly. “It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s a game or a practice; I’m just out there having fun with it. So yes, my first year of college I didn’t see any game time; I was there only to practice with the team, but I didn’t see that as a hardship or a struggle. I was just happy to be playing at all.”
If he makes it sound like no big deal, his record suggests otherwise. After his red-shirt year, he never missed a start in the four years he played for the University of Missouri. In 2006, he was drafted in the fourth round by the New York Jets and later when on to play for the Buffalo Bills. College accolades included being only the second player in Division 1-A history to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 and leading the Missouri Tigers to their first bowl victory in seven years.
His status as a practice member allowed Brad to maintain a steady focus on his academics – something that has stayed a high priority throughout his life. In fact, Brad went on to pursue a master’s degree in economics after finishing his bachelor’s, and was nearly finished with his master’s program when he was drafted by the NFL, first to play for the Jets and then for the Buffalo Bills.
Keeping him grounded are his wife and young son, his relationship with his mother, the lasting influence of pastor Norman Wagner, and perhaps most importantly his Christianity. “My faith is my foundation,” Brad said. “Faith gives me the proper perspective on life, football, marriage, fatherhood, whatever it may be.”
To Brad, there’s no question that the key to his success was the positive role models that superimposed themselves over the negative influences in his life, and he hopes that children in circumstances like his can find their own role models. “It is really important that we adults show the kids around us positive attributes and give them goals. As I kid, I always understood I had to do the best I could, not write myself off and think I’ll never be able to do anything. I learned early that in all the things you want to do in life, you should do the best you can.”
But Brad does far more than just talk about this; he has put his belief in good works into action. Along with his wife, Rosalynn, he founded a camp for underserved children ages 7-16 in and around the Youngstown, Ohio area called Brad Smith True Foundation. Kids attend for a day in the summer and have access to high school, professional and college football coaches while also participating in a life skills session from top executives and some of the best companies in the U.S. – and all attend for free. It’s just one example of how Brad would like to change the world to make things easier for young people who start out with few advantages.
Strong relationships with family, friends and teammates as well as an unshakeable sense of faith give Brad Smith the values of an Insightful Player® team member.
Instant replay of Brad’s guiding principles:
- Find role models among the adults all around you who exemplify your best values, and follow their example.
- Maintain a strong sense of faith. Believe that whatever happens, happens for a reason, and be accepting of life’s twists and turns, knowing they are part of God’s greater plan.
- Remember that everyone you come into contact with affects you either positive or negatively, so seek out positive people and avoid negative ones.
- Find your passions and keep your focus on pursuing them.
- Listen to the counsel you receive from the adults you admire. Ask them for guidance when you need it, but pay attention to the wisdom they possess even when you are not actively looking for guidance.
- Let the formation of strong human relationships be your highest priority. Look for ways you can build others up and ways they can build you up, and do all you can to nurture those relationships.
- Recognize the value of doing well in school. Make a strong academic record the foundation on which you build.
- Avoid dwelling on what you don’t have – whether it is material possessions, particular relationships, or a level of skill or talent. Instead, make the best of what you do have.
The Insightful Player® series is brought to you by Coach Chrissy Carew, Hall of Fame Master Certified Personal and Business Coach and Author of her newly released book, INSIGHTFUL PLAYER: Football Pros Lead A Bold Movement of Hope. Chrissy has been deeply inspired by her father, the late Coach Walter Carew, Sr. Her father is in several Halls of Fame as a high school football coach and baseball coach (as well as high school and college athlete). He used sports to help kids build strong character and teach them valuable life skills. The Insightful Player® initiative was created to help make our world a much better place by inspiring youth. To contact Chrissy Carew visit http://www.insightfulplayer.com or call 603-897-0610.
©2012 Insightful Player, LLC