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Oct. 4, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; - Family and friends of former Penn State football captain and NFL veteran Steve Smith have launched a campaign and website to support Smith and his family as ongoing medical expenses related to his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) sap their resources.
There are three ways to help Smith, a captain on Penn State's unbeaten 1986 National Championship team that will gather for a reunion at Saturday's home game with Iowa:
Visit: www.stevesmithfund.org , to make online donations and find updated information about Smith and his situation ** (WEBSITE SCHEDULED TO LAUNCH THIS WEEK) **
Call: 1- 800-242-0335 to make a donation
Text: STEVE (space) PLEDGE AMOUNT (space) YOUR NAME to 95495 to pledge a donation on your cell phone. (Example: STEVE 25 Joe)
People making a pledge via text will receive a call from 1-800-242-0335 within 5 business days to process their credit card. Message & data rates may apply. All donations are considered gifts and are not tax deductible. Donations will be held in a trust for the health, support, and maintenance needs of Steve Smith.
Smith has been living with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, for nine years. While most diagnosed with the disease survive only a couple of years (and even Gehrig lived only a year after he was diagnosed), Smith continues to fight.
His determination and tenacity have allowed Smith to watch both his children graduate high school and enabled him to continue to serve as a leader and resource for former teammates at Penn State and in the NFL.
"He'll always be our captain--he's even helping guys these days," said Rogers Alexander, who was Smith's teammate in high school (DeMatha) and at Penn State. "He's always encouraging, always helping."
As a senior in 1986, Smith helped lead Penn State to its second national championship. Smith was a 6-foot-1, 235-pound fullback who wore No. 33. During his Nittany Lion career he had 1,259 rushing yards, 31 receptions for 293 yards, and scored 13 touchdowns.
From Clinton, Md., he was drafted by the Los Angeles Raiders and had a nine-year NFL career with the Raiders and Seattle Seahawks. While primarily a blocker, he finished his career with 1,627 rushing yards, had 131 receptions for 1,250 yards, and scored 22 touchdowns.
Now, though, Smith has lost the ability to control his muscles, is bedridden, and can no longer walk or talk. Smith relies on a computer controlled by his eye movements as his sole means to communicate.
Smith's fight has come at a cost. He wisely saved for retirement during his nine-year pro football career, but he has drained that fund and his family's financial cushion to keep up with medical expenses.
Many of Smith's former Penn State teammates--among them Shane Conlan, D.J. Dozier, John Shaffer, Trey Bauer and others--have conducted fund-raising efforts for Smith in the past. His family and friends hope a more concerted effort can provide additional necessary support.
Twenty-five years after Smith playing a significant role on Penn State's 1986 National Championship team, his teammates remain humbled and impressed with his impact on their lives. They hope others will join them as they rally to support Smith.
"He's a Penn Stater who needs a hand, and I think people will take the opportunity to offer him some support. That's what Penn Staters do," Alexander said. "Also, I think the Penn State community appreciates good guys and Steve has always been a good guy. You never heard about shenanigans from him while we were in school and he has been a model husband and father.
"Penn Staters know what it means to do the right thing. Not when it's convenient. Not just when it's easy. All the time. That's the kind of person Steve has always been, and people have always responded to it. I have no doubt the Penn State community will respond again."
Penn State and the Penn State Football Letterman's Club will honor Smith as the "5th Captain" during the Iowa game on Saturday, Oct. 8. In addition, The Iowa Gameday program and the nationally televised Penn State Football Story will include features on Smith and the Football Letterman's Club's efforts to support him.
Smith's parents, Morris and Norma Smith, and children, Dante and Jazmin, will attend the Iowa game and represent Smith during the 25th Anniversary National Championship celebration at halftime. The game will kick at 3:30 p.m. and a limited number of tickets remain at www.GoPSUsports.com/tickets or by calling 1-814-865-5555 weekdays from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Smith lives in Richardson, Texas, with his wife, Chie, and their two children, Dante, 21, and Jazmin, 20.