By Greg Gulas
Brad Smith is one area athlete who remembers, with great pride, his hometown and most especially his alma mater, Chaney High School.
When given the chance to return to where he spent his formative years, he readily jumps at the opportunity; hoping to give back in some small way to the area that has meant so much to both him and his family.
Playing host to over 200 campers at YSU’s Stambaugh Stadium Saturday for his third True Foundation Football & Cheerleading Camp, Smith was encouraged by those who were taking part.
“When I was growing up, camps like this weren’t readily available to us so we just worked out on our own or with a couple of teammates during the offseason.
“It’s absolutely exciting for me anytime when I can return to the Valley, most especially today when I can spend some quality time with the kids from our area.
“Kids look to us as role models and that is very humbling, but I am the first to tell them or anyone that I didn’t get to where I am without God and a supportive family. That is very important to me,” he said.
The camp, free of charge to participants, promotes education, discipline and organized activity for youth, aiming also to instill a sense of accomplishment and achievement while teaching new skills and instructions.
The foundation also cultivates a sense of community ownership in all participants.
“Brad and his wife, Dr. Rosalynn Smith, want to give back to the Youngstown area and neighboring communities a sense of value and worth,” said Smith’s mother, Sherri Smith-Brogdon.
“They were concerned that many who are educated in this area were leaving and not coming back, so this is their way of showing that good things are happening to those from the area and that they want to come back and share with the community those successes.”
Mike Popio, a Chaney graduate and camp staffer who coached Smith throughout his prep career and is currently an assistant football coach at Boardman High, called Smith special for many reasons.
“Brad is without question the most special person that I have ever coached. First, he’s a great leader; someone that you had to pull off of the field when practice was over.
“Then when you talk about living your life the right way, you use Brad as an example. He never seems to make a bad decision; either in life or when it comes to the team and if he does, he finds a way to deal with adversity and turn it into a positive,” he stated.
Camp coordinator Ron Berdis, the longtime former Cowboys football coach who coached Smith all four seasons at Chaney, called his former player a man of integrity who is morally sound.
“The best way for me to describe Brad over the years is that he is still the most unassuming person that I know.
“To me, he should be the NFL poster child for how young kids should be,” Berdis said.
Mike Kopachy, Salem football coach and a former assistant under Berdis, echoed his mentor’s words.
“Brad does this for free and if anyone is the role model of our city and area, then that is Brad.
“In looking at the camp agenda, it’s very structured and organized right down to the minute when the drills take place. The coaches, like the campers, will get a lot out this as well.”
Steve Halloran, owner of Don Beebe’s local House of Speed franchise, coordinated the warm-up session and run/speed station, noting that he reached out to Smith hoping to be a part of what he realizes is very special for the area’s youth.
“Because of our common beliefs and Christian values, we wanted to take part. This is more than just a football camp for while we will talk about injury prevention and balance coordination, the camp also digs into their hearts and minds as well,” Halloran noted.
Chaney High senior quarterback C.J. Crosby, who was sporting a T-shirt that said “Tradition Never Graduates,” was one of 10 Cowboy senior players in attendance.
“Looking at how Brad came up through the ranks gives us hope and the belief that with heart, desire, lots of effort and plenty of hard work, we too, can achieve our goals,” Crosby said.