Winning is an American experience and football in America is a way of life. Every week fans invest time, energy and money to watch players and coaches develop strategy and execute plays to win games and achieve a Super Bowl victory, the most coveted prize of the sports calendar year.
Chicago was ground zero for NFL Draft this year. The 2nd round was filled with as much energy and excitement as the first, attended by football fans from every walk of life; couples, families, men, women and children eagerly filed into the Auditorium Theater wearing their favorite team jerseys and hats.
NFL teams still had an opportunity to find that game changer. Everyone loves the underdog; the players selected in the late rounds are hungry to prove themselves and work harder to contribute so their team can win. Players like Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick were all late round picks who have brought more excitement to the game.
The Chicago Defender and the Black Press want readers to recognize the legacy of African Americans who were drafted late but changed the game of professional football. The NFL wasn’t always 68% Black. Many fans are living in the moment but shouldn’t forget about those talented athletes who were locked out from 1933 to 1946. Let’s also acknowledge three late round picks that broke the color barrier in sports: Woody Strode, football; Jackie Robinson, baseball; and Kenny Washington, football.
Fast forward and take a look at Donovan Smith. He’s a potential unsung hero from the 2nd round. The 6’5”, 325-pound offensive lineman from Penn State was selected by Tampa Bay to assure their new, $35 million quarterback James Winston can properly do his job for ex-Bears coach Lovie Smith and the team.
Smith will not only add more talent and depth to the TB (tailback) offensive, but he’ll also add more character and fun to the game. When reporters inquired how he feels about playing for Lovie, Smith smiled and said, “That’s my cousin.” Everyone laughed, but it was clear that he already sees his team as family. He remained loyal to his college program through one of the biggest scandals in college sports history.
This new NFL star is just a humble guy excited about his new job. When asked what he plans to do off the field and for the community, Smith talked about his autistic nephew and humbly said, “I really don’t know,” but his community service commitments will probably center on that.
Fans also wanted to know how his lifestyle is going to change. True to form, Smith kept it real when asked to tell fans about the first thing he wants to do or take care of. Smith said, “Well my Uncle has been paying my phone bill. I can now pay for my phone.” Now that’s something everyone can feel.