As a 12-year veteran and team captain for the Carolina Panthers, receiver Steve Smith has been a leader for years. Off the field, he’s unafraid to lead in a more unconventional way. The 5-foot-9 smith had to overcome the perception that he was too small to compete in the NFL.
“People always have their perceptions, but that’s the beauty of sports,” Smith recently told Yahoo! Sports.”You get to do the things that people say are impossible, but they’re happening on the field each and every day.”
Now that he’s racked up 772 catches, 11,452 yards, and 63 touchdowns in an estimable NFL career, Smith wants to share his good fortune with others. That’s why he’s teamed up with an organization called “Samaritan’s Feet,” a charity with the goal of putting 10 million pairs of shoes on the feet of 10 million people in need over the next 10 years.
“It’s a great organization, because shoes are a basic need,” Smith said. “But 300 million people in the world don’t have them.”
Before the 2012 season, Smith came up with a way to raise awareness for Samaritan’s Feet before Panthers away games.
“At the end of games, I take off my shoes to represent people who have no shoes. I haven’t always understood it or thought about it. I’m trying to change that, and you change it one shoe, and one foot, at a time.”
Now, Smith especially enjoys helping children enjoy the sensation of a comfortable, well-fitting pair of shoes, It sounds like a little thing, but it’s really not. Smith is one of thousands of volunteers who gives shoes to the needy in an interesting fashion — he will wash the recipient’s feet beforehand.
“The first time I washed somebody’s feet, it was a little girl, and she was 10 years old — the same age as my daughter at the time. I said, ‘I won’t go past your kneecap.’ You have to be prepared to walk them through the steps, so they’ll be comfortable and understand.
“It doesn’t get any realer than that.”
Smith, who was born in a rough part of Los Angeles, understands the pressures of poverty first-hand.
“To be poor — to be hungry,” he said. “To not have much. I know what it’s like to be on food stamps. I know about all those things. I can identify with that, because it wasn’t too long ago that I was that kid.”
Smith’s wife Angie, and his three children, also participate in the effort.
“As a dad, you think you’re teaching them,” Smith said of his own children. “But it’s the things you don’t say that speak more to them. I see that in my daughter — the way she is, and my two boys. I’m happy that I have their ears and their hearts — that I can give them something they will trust in and believe in and follow.”
With that sort of influence, it would be hard not to.
“I’m not marking off my list of good deeds,” Smith concluded. “This is who I am.”