Torrey Smith’s Twitter account provides a running commentary of whatever is on his mind. Sometimes, that’s politics or social issues. Occasionally, it’s football. He engages with fans, spars with critics and laments the president of the United States.
On Feb. 5, the morning after the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots, 41-33, in a thrilling Super Bowl LII, the first tweet Smith shared with his 595,000-plus followers had one word above two pictures.
“Blessed!” the Eagles wide receiver wrote. The two pictures, depicting Smith with his arms outstretched and his eyes looking skyward as confetti rained, were nearly identical except for his uniform and hairstyle. Yet, the five years of separation between each photo, the first taken after the Ravens’ victory in Super Bowl XLVII, had given Smith a much deeper perspective.
“I realize how hard it is to get there,” Smith said in a phone interview with The Baltimore Sun on Tuesday night. “A lot has changed. I’ve got two kids now, so I had the opportunity to celebrate with them as well. You just have to take it all in, because you know nothing is promised. A lot of people would kill to have had one opportunity. I’ve been fortunate to be part of two great teams.”
Smith, 29, signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Eagles in March. After struggling through parts of the regular season, he was at his best in the playoffs, catching five passes for 69 yards and a touchdown in the NFC championship game blowout of the Minnesota Vikings and five passes for 49 yards in the Super Bowl.
Smith hasn’t settled down since the Eagles’ landmark victory. There was the raucous parade down Broad Street, in which the team was feted by hundreds of thousands. Smith, never shy with his opinions, particularly on President Donald J. Trump, has been a guest on CNN and MSNBC, and peppered with questions about why he wouldn’t accompany his teammates to the White House if the Eagles were, indeed, invited, an opportunity usually afforded to Super Bowl champions.
“If there’s something I believe in, I’m sticking with my conditions,” Smith said. “That’s not me saying I’m trying to influence everyone not to go. In fact, I think the team should have the opportunity to go if they want to. It’s a great honor to be there, but for me, I’m not really interested in photo ops with someone who doesn’t respect everyone.”
The former University of Maryland standout spent the first half of this week in Baltimore, accelerating plans for his annual charity basketball game March 17 at Royal Farms Arena and taking part in his after-school mentoring programs.
As Smith got off a train Tuesday night in Philadelphia, he acknowledged that he was a little worn out. He was looking forward to a pending trip with his family, but he was also already thinking about his next stop in Baltimore and a continuation of his off-the-field work.
“I go straight from game-planning to planning how to be the best we can be as a charity and grow and fix things that we need to improve upon,” said Smith who has teamed with his wife, Chanel, to head the Torrey Smith Family Fund. Its mission is to provide youth with the tools they need to maximize their potential.
“I was blessed to play for Baltimore, but I felt the city embraced me beyond that. The attachment to the city was real and it still is. My commitment to the city, I said when I left, wouldn’t change. I feel like it’s part of my purpose. It’s a lifelong commitment for me.”
It’s been over three years since Smith was last a Raven. The organization’s subpar history in drafting receivers is well documented, but Smith is the antithesis. A second-round pick in 2011, he caught 213 passes in four seasons in Baltimore, had a 1,128-yard season in 2013 and an 11-touchdown year in 2014. Yet, the perennially salary-cap challenged Ravens let him go in free agency after 2014 without putting up much of a fight.
The San Francisco 49ers signed Smith to a five-year, $40 million deal, and released him after two disappointing seasons. Smith considered rejoining the Ravens last March, but he felt the timing was right to sign with the Eagles. His intuition was proved correct.
Smith, though, has never really left Baltimore, and he doesn’t plan to anytime soon. He’s building a home in the area, and at least once a month during the regular season, he returned to Baltimore to visit with students he is mentoring.
Through the Torrey Smith Family Fund, the Smiths runs an after-school program called Level Up that provides extra help, daily tutoring and life-skills lessons for students. The Smiths also conduct a teen mentorship program. Smith spent part of Wednesday at Franklin Square Elementary in West Baltimore.
The students “were super excited, but the best thing about it to me now, I’m not just an athlete to them. They enjoy sitting there and talking to me about those things. But for them, I’m more like their friend and their big brother,” he said. “It’s pretty cool when you get to that point. I understand the importance of that role.”
Smith’s charity basketball game, which attracts NFL players past and present, helps fund the mentorship programs and pay for four college scholarships the Smith family awards in honor of Torrey’s late brother, Tevin Jones, who died in a motorcycle accident in September 2012. The game also gives Smith an opportunity to reconnect with Ravens fans, many of whom he heard from during Philadelphia’s Super Bowl run.
“There was so much support from Baltimore — San Fran as well. It was just crazy,” Smith said. “I was telling my wife, this type of support, everyone going for us, I’m like, ‘I’m trying to figure out if it’s because they love me a lot or they just hate the Patriots that much.’ But it definitely meant a lot.”
Smith, who has been active on social media since he was at Maryland, also hears plenty of negativity as well. He is a frequent target of the “stick to sports” crowd, and some of his social media comments have earned retorts from Trump supporters. He recently documented on Twitter a conversation he had with a Trump supporter at a recent Philadelphia 76ers basketball game.
“Now, people are paying more attention to what athletes are saying. For me, that’s helpful. I’ve always kind of been myself. For me, it’s not about attention or anything. It’s about right and wrong and trying to help. A lot of those issues affected me growing up and they are affecting people that I try and help each and every day in the city,” Smith said. “I’ve had all kinds of racist comments said to me for years, since college, speaking up on certain things. That doesn’t really bother me too much. I get it. I understand that comes with the territory. I feel like it’s my responsibility to better that situation or be a voice. That’s not something I’ll run from.”
Smith did acknowledge that he has turned down several national interviews related to his stance on visiting the White House and his feelings on Trump. He doesn’t want his opinions to overshadow the accomplishments of the Eagles organization and all the positives that will come from the Super Bowl victory.
There is so much else that demands his attention anyway. Smith will resume working out this week and start preparing for his eighth NFL season. He relishes the offseason time he gets to spend with his wife and two young boys and the many people he plans to meet and interact with in the community.
“Everything for me revolves around my family, our charity and football,” Smith said. “Obviously, I’m expecting to be back in Philadelphia, but at the end of the day, you don’t know how that’s going to play out. Football kind of takes care of itself, and I plan on continuing to do the work that we’ve been doing in the city and spending time with my family. For me, that is business as usual.”
Torrey Smith Family Fund Charity Basketball Game
What: NFL players, including past and present Ravens, and local celebrities will take part in a basketball game to benefit the Torrey Smith Family Fund and its mentoring programs and scholarships.
When: March 17, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Royal Farms Arena
Tickets: Available at the Royal Farms box office or via ticketmaster.com. You can donate a ticket at torreysmith.org. Group sales are available.