For a lot of professional athletes, suiting up and playing the game is only one important part of their life. For most, while playing the game is their job, they only see it as a part-time gig and spend a good portion of the rest of their time doing whatever they can to help better the community around them and give the residents a chance to one day be in their shoes and remind them that there is always hope for them.
For former All-American offensive tackle for the University of Kansas and the 3rd round pick by the Denver Broncos in the 1984 NFL Supplemental Draft of USFL and CFL Players, Chicago native Reggie Smith currently sits as the President of the Retired Professional Football Players of Chicago; a non-profit organization of former professional football players who work voluntarily to support youth and charities and give back to the community by supporting children and education programs and is also the President of the NFLPA Former Players Chapter of Chicago.
For Smith, he’s known since his first visit to a school to speak to the children that giving back to the kids and spending time with them was what he wanted to do with his time.
“A friend of mine gave me a call and said ‘let’s take a ride and visit some kids,’ so we ended up dropping by a school and visited some kids who were having trouble with school, trouble passing and trouble outside of school,” explained Smith. “As I was leaving the school and got into the car, I realized that day that the time I spent there made an impact on those kids and that was something I found pretty moving and I realized that was what I wanted to do with my time.”
The Retired Professional Football Players of Chicago and the NFLPA Former Players Chapter of Chicago are not the only organizations that Smith dedicates his time to. He’s also very active with AMIkids; an organization that provides the kids within the community an opportunity to transform into responsible young adults and help them develop confidence and competency in vital life skills and educational areas. Through the programs, kids learn to accept personal responsibility and the assistance to help make better choices in life.
“The feeling you get from helping someone else is indescribable,” stated Smith.
“When I was a young boy, I would help out in the neighbourhood twice a week with my grandparents, whether it was feeding or clothing the homeless and hungry or volunteering in some way,” he added. “Every time I give back I feel like I’m paying respect to my parents and grandparents.”
As much as the former member of the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL enjoys spending his time with the children and doing whatever he can for them, he understands that there are important things to learn when you want to get involved with a team or a sport. One of the things that he stresses is raising awareness for brain injuries and concussions as he feels that it is the most important injury to talk to the children, coaches and parents about.
“Sports across the board are now more popular than they have ever been and kids are getting involved at very young ages so we need to as coaches, parents and adults make sure that they are having fun in the game, but at the same time we’re protecting them and making sure that they can enjoy their chosen sport for years to come and that takes a lot of education,” discussed Smith.
“If you received an injury to the head when I played, the first questions you were asked were ‘how many fingers do you see?’ and ‘where are you?’ and if you were unlucky enough to answer those questions correctly, then you were put back out there to play,” he continued.
“It’s tough with the brain because when a bone is broken you can always tell that it is broken and something is wrong but you can’t see what’s going on inside the brain so that’s why it’s such a risk to send athletes back out there after a head injury.”
Giving back to the community and lending a helping hand in any way possible has always been on Reggie Smith’s to-do list. He’s been helping others since he was just six-years old and hasn’t stopped looking out for others since then. He does whatever he can for the city that he’s been able to call home for a majority of his life and would like to give the youth of today a chance to become men and the role models of tomorrow. He knows that regardless of your role in life, giving back and helping out within your community is something that everyone should be involved with.
“I think that all athletes should be giving back to the community or to a charity,” expressed Smith.
“My philosophy is that not only athletes, but every human being in whatever way should give back to society. I think we often make the mistake that we think we have to have a certain financial situation or the free time to give back, but it doesn’t matter what time you have or what your financial situation is because there is always something that you can do to go beyond yourself and touch someone else,” he asserted.
“However, I believe that athletes especially should be giving back because they have been given a different type of blessing and they have the opportunity to do something that not everybody has the opportunity to do.”
To learn more about the NFLPA Former Players Chapter of Chicago, visit https://www.nflplayers.com/About-us/Former-Players/Former-Player-Chapters/
To learn more about the Retired Professional Football Players of Chicago, visit http://www.rpfpc.com/
To learn more about AMIkids, visit http://www.amikids.org/