It’s been well over a year since Steve Smith last wore anything bearing the logo of the Carolina Panthers, a team for which he spent 13 years catching footballs.
Still, to this day, he is often asked: Do you miss the Charlotte area?
“A lot of times I say, ‘No,’” said the five-time Pro Bowler, 36, who is going into his second season with the Baltimore Ravens. “That’s because I still live here. ... I’ve lived here 14 years. Three out of four of my kids were born in the state of North Carolina. I pay taxes here, I file my taxes here, my house is here.”
Lace Up Son is a play on “Ice up, son,” which he famously said to Aqib Talib in 2013, after the New England Patriots cornerback left a loss to the Panthers with an injury.
But the NFL star doesn’t just put his stamp on the event; he shows up. And mingles with fans. And runs alongside them. Last year, he participated with kids Peyton, Baylee and Boston, as well as his wife, Angie – who completed the distance while seven months pregnant. On Monday, all six Smiths will be on the course, with Steve and Angie taking turns pushing Steve Jr. in a stroller.
“I like to try to fundraise in a creative way, but also in a way that is family-oriented,” Smith Sr. said.
“As a parent of children of various ages, that can be a struggle. The 17-year-old doesn’t want to do what the 10-year-old wants to do, or the 10-year-old can’t do what the 17-year-old can do... But this is something everyone in a family can do together.”
A portion of proceeds from the event will benefit the Siskey, Simmons and Johnston YMCAs. Last year’s netted $46,000 for the Ys, Smith said, and attracted 541 runners and walkers.
The 2014 race was held just over two months after he was released by the Panthers. Since then, he has welcomed his third son (born in Charlotte), established his charitable foundation as a 501(c)(3) (based in Charlotte), and hosted his second annual Strike Out Domestic Violence bowling event (held in Charlotte).
So he remains, in many ways, a Carolina guy. And if Smith has hard feelings against his former team, he isn’t letting them show.
“I still get an opportunity to play,” he said when asked how he feels about how things went down with the Panthers. “A lot of people don’t get an opportunity to continue to play football at 36 years old.”
Smith, who plans to live in North Carolina during the offseason for the foreseeable future, is taking his approach to retirement – as the old sports cliche goes – “one day at a time.”
“Whenever I shut it down, we’ll probably take some time to get away and just relax,” he said. “It’ll probably be the first time we get to take a summer vacation. Usually, (when the kids get out of school) I’m going to training camp.”
In fact, Smith will follow up his 3.1-mile run on Monday with a 450-mile drive: “I leave for Baltimore the day after the 5K.”
Lace Up Son Family 5K
WHEN: 8 a.m. Monday.
WHERE: Stumptown Park, 120 S. Trade St., Matthews.
COST: Register for $45 (until Thursday at 11:59 p.m.) at www.stevesmithfamilyfdn.org. Each participant will receive a medal, shoelaces and a T-shirt.