Future won't stop Smith from fighting past

March, 2, 2014
Mar 2
7:11
PM ET
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Wide receiver Steve Smith has a bit of uncertainty in his life as his future with the Carolina Panthers has come into question the past few weeks.

Smith
It doesn't compare to the uncertainty he had in his life as a child.

That's what brought Smith and several hundred friends -- including many of his teammates -- to Ten Park Lanes on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Charlotte.

Smith and his family have embarked on a campaign against domestic violence through the Steve Smith Foundation. It's an important campaign to the team's all-time leading receiver because he suffered through domestic violence as a child, something he only recently began talking about.

That the timing of this campaign came as the Panthers are trying to decide what role the 34-year-old receiver will play on the team next season -- or if he will play a role at all -- is merely coincidence.

And Smith won't let that stand in the way of his message.

"All of this football talk, I'll address it by saying this," Smith said. "Football is a part of my life. It is not my life. Whatever day I decide I no longer want to play or no longer pursue the opportunity to play ... I will live longer than that.

"My legacy here starts with my family."

Smith's situation with the Panthers likely will come to a head this week. My guess is he'll be back, maybe at a reduced price, maybe at a reduced role.

What Smith does with the foundation is just beginning. He has donated $1 million of his own money to begin this battle.

It has begun now because his mother, Florence, finally is allowing her son to talk about what many families keep a secret forever.

In a candid interview with Charlotte's WSOC TV a week ago, Smith talked about the first time he remembered seeing his mom "getting punched."

"They got into an argument and like a coward, he hit my mom," Smith said of his mother's husband in the interview. "Being a young kid ... police at your house, the ambulance ... it was probably the first time as a kid I think that I hated someone.”

These are the memories Smith has kept hidden from the public for most of his life.

“He was standing on top of her with his hand raised and she was crying and he was calling her names," Smith recalled of another violent moment. "I was so concerned that I slept with a machete under my pillow to protect myself, my brother and my mom if I had to.”

Sunday's event was put on in conjunction with Safe Alliance, which in 2013 responded to nearly 12,00 violence hotline calls in Mecklenburg County.

Safe Alliance's Karen Parker said having Smith on board was big because when he comes to speak at clinics and other functions it puts a face on domestic violence and lets those listening know he's "been through this and made it out, and you can, too."

So whatever happens in Smith's football life pales in comparison to what happened in his real life.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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