Kansas safety Fish Smith­son gives back ‘as much as I can’

He grew up in Bal­ti­more, reads to kids, vis­its hos­pi­tals as his way of help­ing

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Ed­ward Lee ed­ward.lee@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Ed­wardLeeSun

Need does not dis­crim­i­nate. Fish Smith­son knows that painful les­son all too well.

From his child­hood in East Bal­ti­more to his days play­ing safety for the Univer­sity of Kansas foot­ball team, Smith­son has wit­nessed the plight of men, women and chil­dren fac­ing hard­ship. And while the faces and lo­ca­tions might change, the heartache does not.

“There are just peo­ple in need,” said Smith­son, a se­nior who played high school foot­ball in Utah. “The dif­fer­ence is, there are cer­tain types of peo­ple, but it’s re­ally just peo­ple in need. I re­mem­ber last sum­mer we were help­ing spe­cial-needs adults run­ning on the foot­ball field and help­ing them throw and catch and kick at our lit­tle camp that we did here. And then we also vis­ited kids in hos­pi­tals who were sick, and we were at ele­men­tary schools. And when I go back to Bal­ti­more, I see kids who need shoes or cones for foot­ball drills. It’s the same peo­ple who need help.”

Smith­son has tried to give back to the Lawrence com­mu­nity as much as he can — read­ing to stu­dents at ele­men­tary schools, vis­it­ing pa­tients in the hos­pi­tal, even ringing a bell for the Sal­va­tion Army. For his con­tri­bu­tions, Smith­son was nom­i­nated in July to the All­state Amer­i­can Foot­ball Coaches As­so­ci­a­tion Good Works Team, which rec­og­nizes college foot­ball play­ers Univer­sity of Kansas safety Fish Smith­son, who grew up in East Bal­ti­more, re­turns a fum­ble against Texas Tech. who bal­ance aca­demics and ath­let­ics while ded­i­cat­ing them­selves to serv­ing their com­mu­ni­ties.

Other nom­i­nees with state con­nec­tions are Tow­son run­ning back Dar­ius Vic­tor, Johns Hop­kins line­backer Jack Camp­bell and Frost­burg State kicker-wide re­ceiver Isaac Robin­son of Elk­ton.

Smith­son, whose given name is An­thony but has been called Fish since his grand­mother Ann Thorn­ton be­stowed it upon him in child­hood, cred­its his up­bring­ing in Bal­ti­more for shap­ing his out­look on vol­un­teer work.

“It def­i­nitely molded me a lot,” said Smith­son, 22. “Grow­ing up, you just see that a lot of peo­ple are not for­tu­nate. At the time, I didn’t know be­cause that was all I had. So I didn’t re­ally com­plain. My par­ents didn’t re­ally have money to put nice shoes or clothes on me, but I didn’t re­ally com­plain be­cause that was all I had and that was all I was used to. Now when I go back to Bal­ti­more and I see kids that grew up just like me play­ing youth foot­ball, I just want to give back as much as I can, and that’s wher­ever I’m at.”

Smith­son’s sis­ter Tam­icka, who is three years older, said that even as a child, her brother would pick up trash in the neigh­bor­hood or help in­ex­pe­ri­enced foot­ball play­ers at camps he at­tended. When he re­turns to Bal­ti­more dur­ing breaks from school, he par­tic­i­pates in area toy drives dur­ing Christ­mas and hap­pily jumps into pickup foot­ball games in the street.

Tam­icka Smith­son said her brother, who is the fifth of eight chil­dren, has had to share his en­tire life. But he’s also the an­chor of the fam­ily.

“Ev­ery­one over­all is elated with Fish,” she said. “Ev­ery­one’s ex­cited. He’s ‘the fa­vorite.’ No one ar­gues with Fish, no one fights with Fish. If there’s an is­sue go­ing on, he’s the lev­el­headed one. We could all be cry­ing, and he might be there with a straight face.”

Fish Smith­son said his time spent de­liv­er­ing lunches to the home­less in Lawrence along­side team­mates res­onated with him.

“We gave them food, and this one lady, she started cry­ing and be­gan telling us how her food stamps didn’t come in, and she didn’t re­ally have any­thing else to eat,” he re­called. “She didn’t know when she was go­ing to eat, and we just went out of our way to re­ally help her. … It just shows how much that re­ally meant. I just like do­ing stuff like that.”

Smith­son said he hopes more ath­letes give back to their com­mu­ni­ties, so they can break the stereo­type that they are chas­ing only fame and for­tune. Smith­son said the lessons he learned in Bal­ti­more have turned him away from such temp­ta­tions.

“I def­i­nitely want to thank Bal­ti­more be­cause my up­bring­ing made me who I am to­day,” he said. “I re­al­ized once I got out, I could look back and see just how un­for­tu­nate some peo­ple re­ally are, and it’s not re­ally their fault. … So once I could leave and see that, I def­i­nitely want to give back as much as pos­si­ble.”


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