Smith tackling NFL goal - 21-y-o with Jamaican roots scaling new heights in American sport
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Bulky 21-year-old Robert Smith considers himself to be a Jamaican who has set his sights on tackling his way to some history-making marks into authenticated American territory - the coveted National Football League (NFL) - and for good reason.
Unquestionably, it is the highest level of professional American football in the United States and the top professional American football league in the world.
Driven by his obvious desire to forge an attacking path to the pinnacle of a sport that attracts only the best of the best in the United States, Smith began to make his mark early in his football career when he was in high school.
Smith simply overran all conference, all division and all state.
"I also won a state championship and played in a local football all-star game," he told The Gleaner.
Made for football
For many around him, including Jamaicans who regard football as an entirely different sport, Smith was tailor-built and moulded for a place in the coveted NFL.
"I came in contact with the sport because, as a kid, people suggested to me to play football due to the fact that I was always bigger and stronger than the other kids," he said. "So I gave it a try and, from there, I instantly fell in love with the game ... . I love this game because it helps me relieve stress from my personal issues at home, school and work."
But then, he is on his way to what is intended to be the zenith of his career. The 6-foot-two-inches, 306-pound athlete has already ascended to higher heights in the contact sport. In his senior year at high school, Smith earned an academic scholarship to St Francis University, located in Loretto, Pennsylvania, USA.
"I am currently continuing my football career here as a three-year starting defensive tackle," Smith revealed. "My accolade I have earned this season was National Honorable Mention Player of the Week on October 6, 2012 where I posted 10 tackles, 1.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles for loss," added the obviously enthusiastic sportsman.
Although Smith was born (August 27, 1991) in Staten Island, New York, and raised there, his mother, Lilieth O'Gilvie, and brother were both born and raised in Jones Town, Kingston, Jamaica.
"I have a lot of family members in Jamaica with whom I am always in contact. I have kept my Jamaican connection intact," Smith told The Gleaner.
"In fact, I have been to Jamaica many times since I was nine years old, I even spent my whole summer in Jamaica hanging out with my uncles and cousins," he said.
In fact, for the 21-year-old, his greatest inspiration is his mother.
"She (Lilieth) always taught me to work hard for everything I want in life and she was there for me through my struggles and never left my side," avowed the appreciative athlete.
"She inspired me to be the young man that I am today and I would not have made it this far without her in my life," he asserted. "Her motivation drives me to be successful on that football field from the first snap of the game to the last snap."
Smith told The Gleaner that he has been playing football since he was in the seventh grade at the age of 12.
"From there, I continued to play from Pop Warner, high school at Carteret NU and now at a Division 1AA university," he said.
Pop Warner is the nation's largest and oldest youth football and youth cheerleading organisation, with over 425,000 participants in 44 states.
Founded in 1929, Pop Warner serves as the only youth football, cheerleading and dance organisation that requires its participants to maintain academic standards in order to participate, and its commitment to academics is what separates the programme from other youth sports around the world.
Having mastered the game in the first three critical areas on American soil, the son of a Jamaican is now attracting the scouts to usher him to the acme of American football.
"One of my aspirations is to fulfil my dream and play in the National Football League after I am done with my college football career," he said.