By Greg Gulas
Brad Smith has always felt that it’s much better to give than receive, unless of course you’ve won the coin flip and must decide whether it’s better to first play offense or defense.
Returning to the Mahoning Valley Saturday to host his sixth annual True Foundation Football Camp, 250 boys and girls joined Smith and his wife, Dr. Rosalynn Smith, at Youngstown State’s Stambaugh Stadium for instruction on football and life’s lessons.
The Chaney High School and Buffalo Bills star happily negotiated a field full of campers as opposed to his familiar dodging of oncoming defenders each Sunday during the season.
“It’s always exciting for me to return home and spend quality time with the kids from our area, especially on such a beautiful day like today,” Brad Smith said. “Over 20 area coaches and a number of volunteers have given so graciously of their time in order for us to provide instruction on the fundamentals of football.”
Brian Marrow, head coach of Youngstown Christian High School, called Smith one of the best players in Mahoning Valley history.
“Brad is a man of God who cares about everyone, especially those from his hometown,” Marrow said. “He walks the walk and his camp is just one small indication of how he loves helping others.”
Steve Zielinski, an assistant coach at Lakeview High School, coached Smith his sophomore year with the Cowboys and has been a camp coach all six years.
“Hopefully the campers will understand what a great person Brad is,” Zielinski said. “His outstanding character makes him so special and he’s the same now as he was in high school.”
Ten-year old Zachary Zimbardi, a fifth-grade student at Liberty’s E.J. Blott Elementary, plays linebacker/safety for the Little Leopards and was attending his second True Foundation camp.
“Last year I learned that I needed to be respectful and kind to my teammates,” he said. “This year, I want to learn the fundamentals of my positions.”
Trevor Hykes, an eighth-grade student at Austintown Middle School, was also attending his second camp.
“I play cornerback and while I learned how to kick last year and this year I want to learn more about my position,” he said.
While boys received black camp shirts, Rosalynn Smith passed out pink shirts to the female campers.
“We do Zumba with the girls and a complete workshop on how they can better present and protect themselves, also discussing their future goals and different professions that might be of interest,” she said. “Last year Candace Mathews, marketing director of Amway was a guest speaker and this year we’ll have Role Model Magazine and Dr. Keristan Brantley, a doctor of radiology, among our group of speakers.”
Cari Boulton, a freshman at Liberty High School, said the camp was exciting.
“My brother, John, attended last year’s camp and had a lot of fun,” she said.
Steve Halloran, local owner of Don Beebe’s House of Speed franchise, provided the warm-up and speed drill instruction.
“We want to warm up the campers so that they will be ready for explosion movements and speed, all the while preparing them to perform,” he said.
Ron Berdis, camp director and Smith’s high school coach, was wearing a t-shirt from last year’s camp with nine simple words on the front: Truth; Respect; Discipline; Honor; Leadership; Teamwork; Faith; Hope and Integrity.
“We’ll keep the kids moving, hydrated and having fun while each camper also received a group photo, courtesy of Fred Ludwig of Magic Moments,” Berdis said.