CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panther Steve Smith has always wanted to play football and there’s no doubt he’s been successful. The five-time Pro Bowler was one of the top wide receivers last year and has a highlight reel full of incredible catches. But he admits living out his dream hasn’t been a dream.
“I have not always enjoyed it,” Smith said.
The scrutiny on the professional level hasn’t been easy.
“The biggest challenge has been not letting that persona on the field carry off to off the field. I get to live the things that I go through out in the public eye sometimes. It’s not the thing that you want to display,” he added.
His approach to life in general is different after 11 seasons. He’s still an intense competitor who wants the Super Bowl ring, but he’s trying to appreciate the journey more.
“And what I’m doing now is focusing less on the main goal but not allowing that to be the only way you judge yourself on success,” Smith said.
His wife, Angie, says most people don’t see the thoughtful and caring side of her husband and she appreciates how hard he’s worked to become more relaxed and patient.
“You know people say they want to change but he really has had the desire and endurance to do it,” Angie Smith said.
One thing he can’t do is relax and watch another NFL team’s game. But being part of his youngest son’s team this past fall was no problem.
“I coached him this year in flag football and it was fantastic. I didn’t teach him how to catch or anything I just loved on him.”
As a veteran player he no longer feels the need to be the first to be heard or seen in the locker room or on the field.
“I have the unique opportunity to be the older guy. I get to sit back and instead of trying to jump in the mix and say ‘This is how you do it,’ I’m in my lawn chair. I’m just kind of watching, waiting to be called upon on the sidelines. I’m enjoying that. I used to be ‘Hey, this is how it’s going to be.’ Now I’m like, ‘Hey, you guys go out there.’ Just let me get stretched and get ready.”
He says the growth has been a process, a complex mix of successes and failures. He’s in a good place now. He has a new contract that makes it likely he will end his career where he started. But more importantly he has a new perspective on life.
“One of the best things is if I catch 10 passes or I drop 15, having a hug and a kiss from my family and (them) telling me ‘Dad you were good enough…can’t buy that.”