For a lot of athletes, by the time they reach the professional level they want to do what it takes to show how thankful they are to be at that level and stage in their life, to show everyone that hard work, determination and perseverance really do pay off in the long run. For Edmond, Oklahoma native Reggie Smith, Jr., giving back to the community has always been something he’s wanted to do and once he got drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, he was able to really reach out to the community and change the lives like he had one day hoped to.
“I think more or less, once I got to the league I was actually able to do something effective,” explained the NFL defensive back. “Once I was able to put a program together that helped other people, I felt like a lot of other athletes and people with a higher status should be doing that for the people who are not as fortunate.“
Currently a free agent in the NFL, Smith founded his own Foundation called the Reggie Smith II Foundation during his second season in the league. The Foundation is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the mission of serving the community by supporting under privileged children and families; primarily in the areas of education and athletic arts. They believe that by focusing on these areas it will enhance the children’s ability to dream and reach their full potential as citizens. At the same time, they also try to focus on improving the lives of young people that have been associated with tragic life situations and aren’t as financially stable as others.
“It’s good to go out and see people that I have known for a good part of my life saying that I’m doing some really good things around here and it really helps out and they appreciate it,” elucidated Smith. “It just gives you a really good feeling when you hear people say that.”
While with the 49ers, Smith did a lot of work in the San Francisco area with the team. Although he found a new home for the time being, he never turned his back on the city that raised him and helped make him who he is today. He started a football camp for children in Edmond, Oklahoma, called the Rookie 31 Football Camp.
“One of my personal favourite programs would be the Rookie 31 Football Camp because I enjoy working with the kids,” stated Smith. “Going out there with them and running around with them, it definitely brightens up their day since they get to run around with pro football players and college kids that I know.“
Although he runs the football camp for the kids, he does a lot of work with various charities in Oklahoma to help improve families and raise money for whatever the cause may be. Around the holidays, he also gets generous and hands out holiday turkeys through his Foundation.
“I hope to make the Foundation bigger and better each year that way we can help more kids out every year,” said the former Oklahoma Sooner. “The camp has gotten bigger already and it’s an entire weekend now so I’m happy about that. Last year during Thanksgiving we gave out about 25 baskets to different families in need and this year we’re able to give back at least 50 baskets,” he joyously stated.
For a kid who was born and raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, and played college ball at the University of Oklahoma, he had no idea what to expect once he moved to California to play for the San Francisco 49ers. One thing that he knew he wanted for sure once he moved out to San Francisco was a chance to go out there every weekend dawning the legendary 49ers scarlet and gold, while making a difference in the Bay Area like he did back home.
“I didn’t know much about the things we were going to do when I first came in,” explained Smith. “Every Tuesday we would have an event so I tried to get out to as many as I could. There were so many different things like; the Food Bank, the San Francisco 49ers Academy where we built equipment for them to play on outside, Play 60, and Matthew McConaughey’s Foundation the j.k. livin foundation,” he continued. “It was a lot of fun because I was able to go out there and make some connections with some other functions and Foundations and was able to help out a lot of people.”
The 49ers Academy was started thirteen years ago with the goal of keeping kids safe, on track and in school. They serve 6th, 7th and 8th grade students from East Palo Alto and do what they can to maximize the potential of every student. They emphasize on self-discipline, respect, and individualized attention to help the students master core subjects and prepare them for high school.
Through the 49ers Academy, Reggie helped build a fitness facility for the kids, as well as a music room.
“It seems like every year there was something new for them to enjoy,” proclaimed Smith. “A lot of them are in a real bad situation and I think that all the stuff that we do for them gives them a good feeling about themselves and they get to go in and use all that stuff and hopefully turn it into something positive someday.”
Entering what will be his fifth season in the NFL, Smith is hoping to take the field in the near future as a starter for an NFL team. Although he is currently a free agent, this is not the end of the road for Reggie Smith, Jr. His hard work and perseverance got him to where he is today and if he continues to show the determination that got him to this point, he will find a new city to call home in no time. He continues to live each day the way he wishes everyone would; staying humble, giving back to others whenever possible, and always treating people the way he would wish to be treated.
To learn more about the Reggie Smith II Foundation, visit http://www.reggiesmithfoundation.com