Carolina Panthers WR Steve Smith puts hands, heart into Samaritan’s Feet (pic)
Carolina Panthers WR Steve Smith puts hands, heart into Samaritan’s Feet
Charlotte-based charity addresses Panthers WR Steve Smith’s need to give back as he matures
By Joseph Person
By Joseph Person The Charlotte Observer
Posted: Saturday, Jun. 23, 2012
Modified: Saturday, Jun. 23, 2012
Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith
Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith washes Omar's feet at a Samaritan's Feet Project event in California. (Todd Melloh)
Early in his NFL career, Steve Smith’s charitable contributions consisted mostly of writing checks.
Saturday, in his hometown of Los Angeles, the Carolina Panthers’ Pro Bowl wideout helped wash the feet and put new socks and shoes on more than 500 of the city’s homeless.
It is part of the evolution of one of Charlotte’s most mercurial athletes – a player known nearly as well for his angry outbursts on and off the field as for his acrobatic catches and career numbers that put him in the discussion for the Hall of Fame.
Smith, 33, who signed a contract extension this offseason that should make him a lifetime Panther, said his priorities have changed as he’s gotten older. Still brash and given to emotional displays, Smith is interested in creating a legacy that extends past his playing days.
In January, Smith became the NFL ambassador for Samaritan’s Feet, the Charlotte-based non-profit founded in 2003 to provide shoes to needy children.
It was a natural fit for Smith, a self-proclaimed, “shoe guy,” who grew up in a poor, single-parent family in L.A. that received[..]istance in the form of food stamps and Christmas angels, people who anonymously provide gifts to underprivileged families.
Smith participated in a coat drive in Charlotte shortly after the Panthers drafted him in the third round in 2001, and has participated in a number of charity golf tournaments and the like. But he never had a clear vision for where to direct his charitable efforts until recently.
“You’re 21, 22, 23. I’m a young guy. I don’t know what these people are doing. I haven’t even really taken the time to see. It’s like, ‘Hey, it’s a need. OK, I’ll write a check,’ ” Smith said recently.
“But as I’ve gotten older, I’ll write a check but also be involved. Now it’s to the point where I see this as an opportunity, as my career starts to wind down, to take this full-on once I’m done playing.”
Hands and heart
It doesn’t get more hands-on than washing another person’s feet, which Smith and Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams did this month at a Samaritan’s Feet shoe distribution in Williams’ hometown of Memphis. According to Samaritan’s Feet founder Manny Ohonme, when Smith spotted a young girl in tears in Memphis after organizers ran out of her shoe size, Smith went to a local sporting goods store and came back with 100 pairs of shoes.
That was on top of the 500 pairs Smith purchased initially.
“That just spoke to me that here’s a guy who’s not just doing this stuff for publicity,” Ohonme said. “He’s doing it because he cares about these children because he knows the background where they’re from. He was one of them.”
Smith grew up in south L.A., where his mother, Florence, supported him and his brother on her $12,000 annual salary as a drug counselor.
“We’ve always really struggled financially. But it hasn’t really been a problem or looked down upon. That’s just what we had,” Smith said. “What we had is what we had. But my mom’s always done a good job telling us take what you can get and be thankful for it. So she’s instilled that in me.”
Smith signed a three-year extension in April. The deal includes a team option for a fourth year that could make the contract worth as much as $37.8 million.
But Smith is concerned that his three children – the oldest, Peyton, starts high school this year – learn the value of work. Smith met with his agent, Derrick Fox, during the offseason to discuss business opportunities after Smith retires.
Fox mentioned manufacturing, retail and distribution. Smith took the distribution discussion seriously, arranging an interview with a Charlotte-area soft drink company this past winter.
According to Fox, Smith wasn’t interested in a desk job. He told the company he wanted a route delivering soda.
Not a figurehead
Smith took a similar approach with Ohonme, a former University of North Dakota basketball player who was 9 when he received his first pair of shoes in Nigeria. Smith bumped into Ohonme at Transformation Church in Indian Land and told him he wanted to talk about volunteer opportunities.
Ohonme offered Smith the position of NFL ambassador and an office at the Samaritan’s Feet headquarters near the airport. Smith took the post, but declined the office in favor of a cubicle, where the rest of the organization’s volunteers and paid workers sit.
“A lot of people talk about what they’d like to do, but when the rubber hits the road don’t really want to get their hands dirty,” Ohonme said. “Steve doesn’t want to be a figurehead.”
Smith was in the office a couple days a week during the offseason, according to Ohonme. Smith’s goal is to raise the equivalent of 100,000 pairs of shoes a year while getting NFL coaches, players and alumni involved with Samaritan’s Feet.
Ohonme and Smith are taking their families to Peru next month for a shoe distribution, and Samaritan’s Feet will hold shoe giveaways in conjunction with each of the Panthers’ road games this season. Smith was looking forward to Saturday’s event in L.A., because his extended family planned to join him.
Not about redemption
It is a side of Smith not seen by fans on Sundays. Smith remains a volatile and vocal player who still wildly yells and gestures at opponents and teammates, alike.
At times he’s done more than yell. Smith infamously punched two of his Panthers’ teammates – separate incidents that Smith says have forever tainted him in the eyes of some.
“I think it has created a perception that some people will see that’s all I am and that’s all they think I’ll ever be. And they’ve written me off. And that’s fine,” Smith said. “I think everybody does that. I’ve met people where I go (on) that first impression.”
Fox, Smith’s California-based agent, has seen Smith mellow with age – somewhat, anyway.
“No matter how old he gets, he’s always going to have a quick trigger,” Fox said.
Panthers center Ryan Kalil, who has played with Smith since 2007, believes Smith has done a better job in recent years of leaving his emotions on the field.
“From the first game I ever got in with him until the last game of last season, he’s still firing shots at guys verbally and calling guys out and trying to get them out of their game, trying to get in their head,” Kalil said. “That’s his style and that’s what we’ve all come to know of Steve. That’s what he’ll continue to do and that’s the kind of player he is.”
Said Smith: “We all pop off. Who doesn’t have a moment where if someone saw, they’d go, ‘Whoa.’ We all have it. Unfortunately, in my line of work, I’ve done it at the wrong time.”
But Smith said he did not take on his volunteer work with Samaritan’s Feet to change the public’s perception of him.
“I try not to walk around trying to fix the past or thinking, ‘Hey, I’m going to do this nice deed and I hope someone sees me, so they can say I’m a good guy,’ ” Smith said. “That’s a horrible way to walk around. That’s a horrible way to live life. And to me, that’s unauthentic. That’s a fake life.
“But I try to do the best I can. And when I screw up, make a mistake, just like in football or you fail a test, you don’t drop out of school and quit. You get back in there, you study harder and try to fix it.
“I think unfortunately for me, out in the public eye I failed a lot of tests. But I also think I passed 69 or 70 percent. And I try not to walk around and say, ‘Hey, I did it.’ I think that’s important not to do.
Read more here: Carolina Panthers WR Steve Smith puts hands, heart into Samaritans Feet | CharlotteObserver.com & The Charlotte Observer Newspaper
|Latest Sports Hot Topics »||share this topic »|| |
|06-25-2012, 06:59 PM||away - #2|
Lil !!er needs to do it full time and retire [pic]
Na SS is that dude........thats some good !!.
|06-25-2012, 07:01 PM||away - #3|
im glad hes showing this side of himself more.. instead of punching out teammates and throwing tantrums.
|06-25-2012, 07:02 PM||away - #4|
[pic] [pic] [pic] [pic] [pic]
|06-25-2012, 11:45 PM||away - #5|
Who said feet?
|06-25-2012, 11:45 PM||away - #6|
That dude is totally different off field. One of the coolest pro athletes ive met. He little as hell though but the nicca calves are the size of tree trunks. Glad to have him here in Charlotte. Hopefully with the addition of Cam he can add his name to the list of WR waiting to get in the hall. No way is he in as of now but with 3 more season like his last and a SB ring and it will be hard no to consider him.
|06-26-2012, 06:21 AM||away - #7|
[pic] Steve comin for that triple crown again
|06-26-2012, 06:56 AM||away - #8|
|06-26-2012, 06:59 AM||away - #9|
f*ck steve smith [pic] this dude always abuses the saints secondary [pic]
|06-26-2012, 07:06 AM||away - #10|
son is a good dude...Cam rejuvenated his career
|06-26-2012, 07:17 AM||away - #11|
That's my wr.
|06-26-2012, 07:22 AM||away - #12|
thats my WR.
cam rejuvenated Steve's career???[pic]
|06-26-2012, 07:44 AM||online - #13|
been my favorite WR for years[pic]
wish it was this Steve Smith that played for us[pic]
|06-26-2012, 07:48 AM||away - #14|
|06-26-2012, 07:55 AM||away - #15|
|06-26-2012, 08:33 AM||away - #16|
That's my WR. That's Cam's favorite toy. [pic]
Last edited by cbjones; 06-26-2012 at 12:47 PM..
|06-26-2012, 12:15 PM||away - #17|
Hope he has another great year. I remember when him and Delhomme used to play 2 on 11[pic]
|06-26-2012, 12:17 PM||away - #18|
Now he's got Justin Blackmon, Laurent Robinson and we'll see what they get out of Lee Evans too. Blackmon and Robinson alone will bail him out many times though. Not to mention Gabbert actually has a QB coach this year and apparently changed his horrible mechanics in his drops/feet that Del Rio and crew ignored. In videos from practice he's no longer shrinking in his drops and in the pocket, he's standing tall and throwing lasers. He's also finally allowed to audible and change calls, something no QB under Del Rio was allowed to do. Del Rio played 1970s football. The Jags offense will now resemble 21st century football, thank god.
Not saying he's going to turn into Cam Newton or anything, but he's definitely going to be a different QB this year with weapons finally.
|06-26-2012, 12:18 PM||away - #19|
|06-26-2012, 12:50 PM||away - #20|
We had to work against our own coach just to score points.
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