I’ll start with this: I’ve always been a big reader. I encourage young players to find something that moves their needle in the same way football does. Find something that can challenge you and make you think. Our game is so consuming and you can fall into the trap of being a one-dimensional human being. Don’t let that be you.
I’m big on informational books, and books that speak truths. I want to finish a book having new knowledge and a new outlook on life. In 2008, I began readingThe Last Lecture, the best-seller by Randy Pausch, a professor who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and told he had only months to live. Pausch’s last lecture is about achieving your childhood fantasy. He asks if you are spending time on the right things, because time is all you have. He talks about overcoming obstacles, seizing every moment and doing everything you can to live life to the fullest. The book speaks to everyone, but really, it is the lessons he wanted to impart on his children.
When I showed up for training camp this season, I put a copy of The Last Lecturein my locker. I want to read it again, because it reminds me that you shouldn’t have to wait for something significant in your life to consider what’s important. You don’t have to stare down death to know what values you want to instill in your kids.
I’ve thought a lot about my legacy, and what my last lecture should be. I want to be remembered as a hard-nosed football player. Throughout my career, especially in the beginning, I’ve had my run-ins and disagreements. I’ve been called a hot head. Some dirty laundry has been aired. When I leave this game, I just want people to remember Steve Smith Sr. as a guy who left everything he possibly had on the field. He played hard, he cared about his teammates and he never gave up. I don’t think anybody can take that away from me.
I am also going to teach them that you can take control over your life. You make decisions every day that shape your future. I’ve learned this by seeing so many of my friends have circumstances outside of their control dictate when their careers ended. While many see free agency as an opportunity for a player to get paid, the flip side is, it’s also a window for guys to be told they are no longer good enough. Whatever insecurities they had are heightened. You are no longer wanted. If I keep playing, at some point, it’s not going to be on my own terms. Hey Steve, we love you, but we’re going in a different direction.