Donate Now

Eglin hosts Baltimore Ravens, Smith Sr., for youth camp

By TRAVIS MEWHIRTER, NWF Daily News
Original Article: http://www.nwfdailynews.com/sports/local-sports/eglin-hosts-baltimore-raven-smith-for-youth-camp-1.493676


smith

Steve Smith Sr. of the Baltimore Ravens smiles with youngsters. DEVON RAVINE, Daily News

Steve Smith Sr. has scored nearly 80 touchdowns and piled up more than eight miles worth of receiving yards as a wide receiver in the National Football League.

In 2005, he led the NFL in receptions, yards and touchdowns in what one could label as the receiving triple crown.

No receiver in Carolina Panthers history has caught passes for more yards.

One might think that the 150 military children, aged from first to eighth grade, surrounding Smith at the Eglin Air Force Base Youth Center football field for a youth camp would be the ones in store for the lessons that day.

No, that would be Smith, still learning from them.

“Running with these kids, it keeps me young,” he said. “Every year the kids are getting bigger and faster. I’m just an old man trying to keep up with them.”

At 36, Smith is in the fourth quarter of his career. He is no longer the speedy rookie out of Utah who made the Pro Bowl. He is older, wiser, a fact underscored by the “Sr.” tag he added to his last name on his uniform with the Baltimore Ravens in 2014, his first year with the team.

“I enjoy doing it. It’s fun. You get out here and get good exercise,” Smith said of the camp. “You just get to impact them and, honestly, to get on a military base, give back to the community, give back to the soldiers, to the men and women who serve. I feel like there’s no better reason.”

“It’s really just go out there and have fun, lower your standards to get to where they are. An 8-year-old could care less about all this other stuff. All they want to do is rip and run just like everybody else out on this field. So little kids can be little kids; let the big kids be big kids.”

Smith’s own kid, Boston, was one of the camp’s attendees. It should come as little surprise that he wanted to “rip and run” just like dad.

“He smashes a guy and they don’t even know what happens sometimes,” said Smith, who is 10 years old. “In one of the games the guy was coming at him, he closed his eyes to tackle him, and my dad just goes like this” — here Smith pauses to step back two feet and pose a makeshift Heisman — “and the guy fell straight on his facemask.”

“It’s kinda cool because once they figure out who I really am they start looking up to me.”

It took about 30 seconds for the elder Smith to assuage the nerves of the youngsters. In his introductory speech, he took a playful jab at his former quarterback, Cam Newton.

“If I throw a pass and you drop it, it’s your fault,” Smith said to laughs. “If I throw you a bad pass and you drop it, it’s still your fault.”

The laughs grew louder.

“That’s what happens when you play with Cam Newton,” he said, chuckling himself by then. “Everything is always your fault.”

The camp erupted in giggles.

“It’s having fun with these kids, to get them to understand it’s not really about judging, it’s not about any of that stuff,” Smith said. “It’s just having fun. It takes the edge off of, ‘Who’s this guy? How’s he going to be?’ We’re just clowning around, having fun. If you can’t clown yourself — you gotta be able to have fun with it.”

And they did for the remainder of Tuesday’s three-hour camp and certainly will throughout Wednesday’s three-hour session as well.

“There’s nothing better out here than being out in the sun, getting sweaty, playing ball and making it what it is,” Smith said. “It’s like a kid’s sport, making it carefree, no judging, just out here balling, having fun.”