When he was finished inspiring his teammates on the football field and in the locker room, Bruce Smith turned his attention to young people desperately in need of counselling and advice to stay on a straight and narrow path.
The motivational speaker, businessman and ordained chaplain succumbed last week to pancreatic cancer. The 63-year-old was buried yesterday.
Raised in Texas, Smith attended the University of Colorado on a scholarship and came to Canada in 1972 to play in the Canadian Football League (CFL). After two seasons with the Hamilton Tiger Cats – he won a Grey Cup in his rookie season – and stints with the Edmonton Eskimos and the now defunct Ottawa Rough Riders, he spent four years with the Toronto Argonauts and captained the team’s “Dirty Dozen” defence before retiring in 1979 as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
When his playing days were over, Smith focused on religion and inspiring others through his words and actions.
He was a member of Revivaltime Tabernacle Ministries Inc. for five years before moving on to become the chaplain of King-Bay Chaplaincy.
“Bruce’s faith was as big as his imposing physical size,” said Revivaltime’s founding pastor, Bishop Dr. Audley James. “He was very kind, warm and generous and he served God with sincerity.”
Smith was also a highly successful real estate agent and the author of Our Father, Father to the Fatherless, a compelling memoir chronicling his life as a fatherless lad growing up in segregated Texas and his rise to fame and fortune as a star professional football player and real estate agent.
Voted one of the Top 125 Argos of All-Time in 2004, Smith was the recipient of the 1999 African-Canadian Achievement Award for Athletics & Community Service and the 2003 Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) Miracle Maker Award for his work with young people.
The late defensive lineman along with fellow American-born athletes Ulysses Curtis, Granville Liggins, Chuck Ealey and Michael “Pinball” Clemons were profiled in the City of Toronto’s 2004 Black History Month poster for their contributions to their adopted homeland.
Smith is survived by his wife, Shirley and children, Coby and Courtne, who described her dad as “fearless”.
“He was a man with a real entrepreneurial spirit who somehow found success in every field he entered,” said Courtne, a style and fashion aficionado and former personal assistant to Canadian recording artist, Drake. “My dad helped and touched the lives of so many people during his time on earth, something I didn’t actually realize until I started meeting the hundreds of individuals over the past few weeks who shared their stories with me and my brother.”
Smith was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer on December 5, 2012 and given three to six months to live. He died on January 3.
By RON FANFAIR