PHOTO: Torrey Smith

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Torrey Smith addresses a crowd in his home town of Colonial Beach during the grand opening ceremonies of the Torrey Smith Recreational Park.

STORIES like the one told recently by Free Lance–Star sports writer Taft Coghill Jr. serve as a reminder that there is, indeed, good news in the newspaper.

Like many such stories, it begins with a disastrous event; in this case, the Jan. 5, 2014, fire that destroyed Colonial Beach’s old school building—which dated to the early 1900s. It had served as both a high school and elementary school over the years, so a lot of people with roots in the community had attended classes there.

One of those people was Torrey Smith, a native son of Colonial Beach, who later on played football at Stafford County High School, then the University of Maryland. In 2011, he was drafted by the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens as a wide receiver.

Smith, of course, soon learned about the fire at the school he once attended. The adjacent building serving as the town’s elementary school was left unusable due to collateral damage from fighting the fire. And some basketball courts were wrecked as well.

Within weeks of the fire, Smith arranged with the Ferry Farm Walmart to fill bags of school supplies to replace those lost at the elementary school. Residents could then buy a bag and donate it to the school.

Smith also announced he’d be at the Walmart to show his appreciation, figuring his presence might draw a healthy crowd of donors. He was right. It did.

Fast-forward to March 2017. Smith, by then a Philadelphia Eagle, was invited by the Philadelphia Phillies to throw out the first pitch at a Phillies’ spring training game in Clearwater, Fla. Steve Swope, the former Colonial Beach baseball and basketball coach who follows his beloved Phillies to Clearwater each spring, also happened to be there. Swope had been a coach and elementary school physical education teacher of Smith’s back in Colonial Beach.

The two got to talking. When Swope told Smith that the old basketball courts had been damaged beyond repair, Smith wasted no time. On social media, he personally pledged $200,000 toward a project to build new courts as part of what would become the Torrey Smith Recreation Park. Local fundraisers and private donations would add another $250,000.

A recent grand opening attracted hundreds and showed off the park’s two basketball courts, two tennis/pickleball courts, a playground and a pavilion. The purple picnic tables and benches were donated by a fan of Smith’s first team, the Ravens.

“It’s huge to be able to give back to where I’m from,” Smith told Coghill. He said his family struggled financially and his mom did the best she could raising him and his six younger siblings by herself. As the oldest of seven, he was pressed into service as a “parent” early on.

Those old basketball courts were his sanctuary of sorts back then, so he’s sure there are kids in Colonial Beach who will appreciate the new ones now.

In 2016, Smith, then a San Francisco 49er, was back in Fredericksburg for the opening of the Sky Zone indoor trampoline arena at Central Park, which came to be thanks to his involvement and investment.

Some readers and football fans will recall that Smith lost a younger brother, Tevin Jones, to a motorcycle accident in Westmoreland County late on a Saturday night in September 2012. Jones, who lived in Fredericksburg, was a standout athlete at King George High School. Smith left the team to head home early Sunday morning, probably with little hope of returning to Baltimore in time for the Ravens’ Sunday night game.

But not only did he make it back in time (with his family’s blessing), Smith led the team with six catches, two for touchdowns, helping rally the Ravens to a 31–30 victory over the New England Patriots. It was a poignant moment in NFL history, and some say his performance that night set the tone for a season that ended with the Ravens’ second Super Bowl championship.

When it comes to giving back and showing up, Torrey Smith has proved himself a guy to go to in the clutch.

Twitter: @FLS_Opinion

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