Each Sunday, millions cheer as their favorite NFL stars charge out of the tunnel and onto the field. For those players, the ultimate dream is a shot at one day becoming a Hall of Famer. This past July, one special father found himself with that title without ever having played in a single game.
Dawaun Smith of Jacksonville, Florida, never dreamed he’d make the trip to Canton, Ohio, for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Week powered by Johnson Controls, but he did — and it all started with a simple letter.
The rock of his family
Smith faces challenges every day that might break other men. He is a father of three, and spends his days and nights caring for his wife, their 4-year-old twins and 9-year-old son Liam, who has Down Syndrome and has battled Leukemia, requiring constant medical attention.
Smith has spent the past several years traveling back and forth to the hospital for his son’s lifesaving treatments while his wife Shenera stayed home with the twins. Even during the hardest times, Smith does his best to find ways to make Liam laugh during tough appointments, while also keeping the rest of his family’s spirits up.
Recognized for his commitment
Smith’s commitment to his family remained steadfast, and while he saw nothing exceptional in what he was doing, Shenera most certainly did. She captured Smith’s courage, strength and care in a heartfelt letter entering Smith in the Haggar Hall of Fame Dads(TM) contest.
“He is the BEST dad because he is the rock of our family,” Shenera wrote, speaking for her 9-year-old son. “He donned his cape and made sure I was safe, comforted and happy as possible at the hospital during all of those crummy procedures …”
Haggar Clothing Co., the official jacket provider of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, wanted to create a new Hall of Fame to recognize and celebrate America’s greatest dads and father figures.
The contest received more than 6,000 nominations and 50 dads were recognized as individual state winners. However, only one father could be chosen as the national winner, and Smith could barely contain his excitement when he learned that the honor belonged to him.
“Winning the Haggar Hall of Fame Dads contest has been the experience of a lifetime,” he said. “I am honored to receive the award on behalf of dads everywhere.”
Celebrating with the greats
In recognition of his award, Smith was able to choose between attending the Pro Football or Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony. He also received a special edition Haggar Hall of Fame Dad jacket and a complete Haggar wardrobe.
A lifelong football fan, Smith chose the NFL route and embarked on a VIP weekend that started with tickets to the Hall of Fame Game between the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens. The following day, he took a tour of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and attended the Gold Jacket Dinner, where he saw the Class of 2018 Enshrinees receive their coveted Haggar Gold Jackets.
The big event, however, was the Enshrinement Ceremony where Smith attended the VIP reception and watched as the newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame were enshrined. “My favorite part was probably the Enshrinement Ceremony, listening to all of the speeches,” he said. “Ray Lewis is one of my favorite players and getting to see him and hear his speech was unforgettable.”
Smith’s Pro Football Hall of Fame experience may have come to an end, but he’s happy to be back with his loved ones and will continue to meet the challenges of his life with humor and compassion. He’s a Haggar Hall of Fame Dad, and that’s good enough for him.
“I get emotional just thinking about it. I went with my dad and seeing the excitement he had and being able to experience everything with him, it’s something I’ll remember forever.”