In the aftermath of the Ravens' Super Bowl victory, Smith interned for Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, spending days answering phones and reading letters from concerned citizens.
"I was one of those kids that needed the support from the community," said Smith, who plans on getting an internship every offseason. "I understand exactly how it is now that I'm on the other side. Being here, this is the perfect city for me. I relate to these kids and every single thing they're going through."
Smith's coaches, past and present, have stories about his selfless nature. Former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen remembers Smith knocking at his office door and apologizing for not being a good enough leader. Smith was only a redshirt freshman at the time.
"You just don't find kids like that," Friedgen said.
Ravens wide receivers coach Jim Hostler learned long ago in the NFL to take first impressions for what they're worth, but Smith has not disappointed.
"His star quality happens to be how he is as a person, how people are attracted to him as a human being," Hostler said. "That sticks out more now, because there are not a lot of those guys."
'Now he is the guy'
Smith's increasing popularity is evident in the crowd that turns out every week for his radio show; in the countless No. 82 jerseys in the stands at M&T Bank Stadium; in his partnerships with Baltimore-based companies such as Under Armour, Polk Audio and PointClickSwitch.com. He's also appeared in a national Pepsi print ad campaign with actress Sofia Vergara.
"His profile has certainly increased in the last couple of years with his success on field. A lot of that goes hand in hand, but what makes Torrey special is he just gets it," said Matt Mirchin, executive vice president of global sports marketing for Under Armour, which used Smith to promote its Harbor East store opening and NFL Scouting Combine Experience. "He's got an infectious smile, and he's really humble the way he handles himself in the media. It's real, and it comes across as real."
Smith has marketable qualities. His personal story is uplifting; he persevered through a rough childhood during which he took on father-figure responsibilities to his six younger siblings as only a young boy. He now has his own foundation that assists troubled kids, he doesn't drink or smoke, and he represents other local charities.
Smith also embraced a new look in April when he cut off his trademark dreadlocks. Lewis and director of player development Harry Swayne had encouraged him to ditch the dreadlocks a couple of years earlier, and eventually, Smith got bored of them. He said his decision to opt for a close-cropped look had nothing to do with wanting a cleaner-cut look for advertisers.
"He's become that face [of the team]," said Matt Saler, the director of sports marketing at IMRE, an agency that specializes in public relations and social marketing. "He brings his brand the right way — it's a mix of the stellar play on the field and his personal side off it. It's a marketing dream."
Rice and Flacco still have the best-selling Ravens jerseys, according to Matt Powell of SportsOneSource, a sporting goods research and analysis company. However, Robbie Davis Jr., the owner of the memorabilia shop Robbie's First Base, said Smith is the most asked-about player by fans who come into his Lutherville store looking to buy autographed footballs and 8-by-10-inch photos.
"Initially, when the season started, it was Joe Flacco. But right after the first and second game, [Smith] has been the most consistently asked-about Raven," he said. "It's night and day compared to last year. Torrey Smith was just a guy last year. Now he is the guy."
A normal celebrity
At his radio show Monday, Smith walked around the room greeting fans. Some of the attendees he knew by name, others by face. He asked just as many questions as he answered, quizzing kids about their schoolwork and extracurricular activities.
Watching the ease with which he moves from conversation to conversation, you'd never know there was a time not long ago when Smith was uncomfortable in these settings. Chanel, an elementary school teacher, took to grading Smith's interactions. A 'B' meant he was "a little awkward," she said
"Him and Chanel are my two biggest role models," said Dayna Groth, 16, of Taneytown. "They aren't like famous people. They are real. I just think it's cool that they are really nice to you and they don't care who you are."
Dayna's younger brother, Jacob, 11, gave Smith and his wife bracelets he had made for them. Her father, Jim, also gave a baby gift to Smith, whose baby is due in April. Jim Groth met Smith for the first time when Smith selected him through Twitter to attend his draft party.
"You get to connect with so many different people," Smith said. "This is going to be my home long after [general manager Ozzie Newsome] and them kick me out of here. I'll be living in this area. With the responsibility of being a professional athlete, I believe that it is on us to go out there and help people."