FORT BELVOIR, Va. — He threw passes, ran routes and even bent over and got into a goal-line stance, allowing himself to be driven back several yards by kids half his size. And when he was done with all that, new Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith sprinted from station to station, autographing the backs of shirts of unsuspecting kids and stopping only to shake hands and say thanks to members of the U.S. military.
"So often nowadays, there’s so many issues, there’s so many things going on. Sometimes, the very thing that you miss is a thank-you,” Smith said Thursday, during a break from his football camp for 100 children of active-duty military members at Fort Belvoir. “So just to walk up to a soldier — a man or a woman — and just say, 'Thank you for what you have done,' there’s many days where I sleep and I don’t concern myself about it because our men and women are back there serving and protecting us. So just to say thank you, that’s important. You need to do that. You need to go out of your way. That’s what I try to do.”
Smith, 34, was known for his charitable contributions with the Carolina Panthers, for whom he played the first 13 seasons of his career before being released last month. He said he plans to continue his off-the-field involvement in Baltimore, his new NFL home.
"I think when you're serving your community, it doesn't matter where that community is," Smith said. "If you're truly about it, then you're going to migrate to wherever that community is, so this is my community. I'm going to serve my community when I have that opportunity and serve back in North Carolina as well. It doesn't really matter where I'm playing, I'm always going to serve. And that place now just happens to be in Baltimore, so I'm excited about that."
Smith said that he particularly enjoys giving back to the military. He visited Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., last year and he said he'll plan similar camps in Columbia, S.C., and Charleston, S.C.
The event yesterday at Fort Belvoir, which also brought out New England Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell and Washington Redskins receiver Andre Roberts, was planned before Smith's signing with the Ravens. But Smith joked that it was "perfect planning," because it was close enough to Baltimore for him to drive to the facility this morning to work out and meet up with some of his new teammates.
Procter & Gamble sponsored the event, which was run by ProCamps.
“We’re just going to bases, [doting] on the kids, honoring their folks,” Smith said. “I’m a parent, and [we’re] allowing their parents just to sit back and relax. It’s not about money. It’s not about any of that stuff. It’s just allowing kids to be kids. With ProCamps, I get to do my own style of things — interactive and just [have] a good old-fashioned time. Throw on the cleats and have fun.”