NFL players join Chaney grad Brad Smith at annual youth camp
A handful of NFL players join Chaney grad Brad Smith at his annual youth camp
By Matthew Peaslee
There are three basic rules at Brad Smith’s football camp.
Don’t waste the water
For the fifth-straight year the 2001 graduate of Chaney High, record setting quarterback at Missouri and current member of the Buffalo Bills hosted an event for Youngstown-area children. Kids had a chance to run drills, get instruction, work on fundamentals, play catch and yes, drink out of pretty cool water troughs to beat the heat on a hot Saturday morning.
“I wish we had something like this when I was younger,” Smith said.
A handful of other NFL players joined Smith at Youngstown State’s Stambaugh Stadium, including Steelers wide receiver Jericho Cotchery and Bills running back C.J. Spiller. So, not only is the camp a great way to simply get better on the gridiron, it’s an outlet to learn from the best.
“Not so much me,” Smith humbly said. “The kids love these other guys, too. This is very rare. A lot of people don’t get to meet real NFL players.”
Earlier in the offseason, Smith joined Spiller at his youth camp in Clemson, SC.
“He was able to see my school [Clemson] and see how the real Tigers are,” Spiller said, laughing.
Not only was it a chance for the teammates to relive (or rather establish) college rivalries, moments like these are a chance to bond with the community.
“Far from football — Brad’s a better person,” Spiller said. “The kids are having fun out here and that’s the main thing.”
Cotchery agreed that he never had the opportunity to attend a camp of this level, or receive much formal instruction at all. The 2004 fourth-round draft pick out of North Carolina State was teammates with Smith for four years with the New York Jets. He had 16 receptions for 237 yards and two touchdowns with Pittsburgh in 2011-12 and he recently signed a two-year extension to stay with the Steelers.
“I had a blast last year and enjoyed everyone,” Cotchery said. “They wanted me back and I wanted to be back. Anytime you have two sides that want to get something done — it’ll get done. I’m happy to be a Steeler again.”
Used sparingly in his first season with Buffalo, Smith has enjoyed his time with the Bills and is under contract with the club for three more years.
“[Playing time] will come as we get to know each other better,” Smith said. “Anytime I’m playing football I enjoy it. I’m grateful for the opportunity to play this game.”
He noted that Buffalo is closer to Youngstown than East Rutherford, NJ and that’s welcomed. He usually gets home for a month in the offseason and is likely to remain here until July 26 when the Bills open training camp in Rochester, NY.
One glaring difference between Youngstown now and Youngstown when Smith was growing up is the defunct athletic department and the lack of sports offered at his alma mater, Chaney.
“That’s where I learned about football and the game of life,” he said. “It’s still a school and it’s still in existence, hopefully they’ll come back around.
“Education comes first — always. Once you get that straight, you can then do other things.”