Carolina Panthers' Legend Steve Smith Leading by Example
“We’re not exchanging cookie recipes. We’re not playing patty cake. It’s one of my ex-teammates, Julius Pepper, 6’ 7” 290 pounds. He’s not coming to kind of pat me on the shoulder and say, ‘Hey, good catch.’ He’s trying to knock my block off.”
Carolina Panthers Wide Receiver Steve Smith has been described as one of the most aggressive receivers in the game. At 5’9 185 pounds, he’s easily one of smallest. He’s also one of the most productive.
Shawn Brown, 700 Club Sports Reporter: “When you’re playing football and you’re lining up against guys that are bigger, you have to take something to the field to be competitive. People call that a chip.”
"Yeah, they call that a chip. In this business, I make a lot of money, but at the same time, I work with my hands. And when you work with your hands, and you’re working a blue collar job, you got to bring your hardhat. So that’s what I believe in. I believe in doing it—doing it with your whole heart. There’s—as God said, there’s going to be one person that wins the prize. So run the race to win the prize.”
That approach seems to have paid off. For his first 8 seasons Steve tore up the field with his strong hands and quick feet. Opposing teams would even assign two players to defend him. During the 2005 season, the 5 time Pro Bowler lead the league in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. But with the success he had on the field came a sense of pride that caused him to neglect the faith he found years earlier.
“I accepted Christ in a boiler room of Tampa Bay (in) 2003. I accepted Christ, but I didn’t understand the responsibility, or understand the full lifelong commitment, the true covenant between a believer, myself and—with Christ. And so (I) was kind of lukewarm, was straddling the fence. (I) Kind of looked for when I needed it, but when I didn’t need it, just kind of shoved it to the side.”
With pride in the driver’s seat, that chip on Steve’s shoulder lead to physical altercations with opposing players and even teammates. One morning during the 2010 season, he took a long hard look at himself.
“I really just did not recognize the man, the young man, in the mirror. I didn’t recognize him, I didn’t see it, I didn’t like what I saw; vain, egotistical, and self centered. The world revolved around me. And, it was only important thing at that time was me. And that’s not how real life works. That’s not what it’s about. That’s not what a husband ought to think, ought to be, that’s not what a father ought to be.”
He says that’s when he was faced with a question from God.
“God just really broke me and asked me that question that I think everyone has in different ways. Which was, ‘You’ve played this game long enough for yourself; when are you going to start playing for Me?’ That was a question that hit home.”
At that moment, Steve decided it was time to get off the fence so he rededicated his life to the Lord.
“It really took me, statistically, that was pretty much the worst year I’ve had in my professional career outside of breaking my ankle after going to the Super Bowl. But spiritually and mentally and physically, it was probably the best year I’ve had.”
Steve had found peace within himself and on the field. He says he’s made a lot of bad choices in his career. But his best decision was getting serious with Christ. Now, he’s all about leading by example and sharing his story of God’s unwavering love.
“You can have your bank account at Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, every big business, but on that weekend, they aren’t open. At midnight when you’re broken, that bank account isn’t going to help you. God has been in my life whether I’ve known it or not, and been looking out for me the days that He knows, He’s known. And He’s been there in the muck and the mire. For me, He’s redemptive; He’s that Father that even when your dad is striking out, that He’ll hold you. ”