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Moving On, But Staying in the Game

Winter Commencement 2019 Speakers to Include Former Terps, Ravens Standout Torrey Smith

By Sara Gavin

Torrey Smith as a Terp

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Torrey Smith, a Winter 2010 grad in criminology and criminal justice and a former Terps football standout who won Super Bowls with the Baltimore Ravens and the Philadelphia Eagles, will speak at the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences’ Winter Commencement ceremony on Dec. 18.

For the first time since he was 13, Torrey Smith’s fall weekends aren’t fixated on football. The former Terps football standout, now 30, announced his retirement in September after eight years as a National Football League wide receiver, winning Super Bowls with the Baltimore Ravens and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Smith, however, isn’t pining for his glory days or wishing he could strap on his pads just one more time.

“A lot of people are afraid of change but I’m looking forward to it,” said Smith, a Winter 2010 graduate in criminology and criminal justice who will address the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences’ Winter Commencement ceremony on Dec. 18. “I’m looking forward to the unknown.”

Smith said he always meant football to be a stepping-stone—not the end zone—that would put him on a path to his true purpose in life.

Torrey Smith in a suit“My goal was not just to go to the NFL. My goal was to earn a scholarship and be able to graduate,” Smith said. “Whether I made it to the pros or not, I wanted to speak up and be a voice for the voiceless and to help others. I think that’s who I was always meant to be.”

The oldest of seven children raised by a single mother, Smith learned from an early age how race, class and economic circumstances can create unjust barriers to opportunities and success. He set his sights on becoming the first in his family to attend and graduate from college.

“Growing up, we needed help. I needed support and mentors and role models, and if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now,” he said. “People get judged and put in a box and are told they don’t have the potential to be great because of where they are or what their situation is. I’m proof that with support and the right attitude and the right work ethic, you can change your life.”

Although born and raised in Virginia, Smith said he “became a man in Maryland.” While on campus, he met his wife, Chanel Smith ’10, who ran on the university’s track team. Smith played three seasons under Coach Ralph Friedgen and earned all-ACC honors as both a wide receiver and kickoff returner.  

Shortly after he was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 2011, he and Chanel created a nonprofit, the Torrey Smith Family Fund, dedicated to assisting underserved communities. Smith also interned in the office of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings in Baltimore during the off-season while playing for the Ravens.

Smith continued to call Baltimore home even after going on to play for the San Francisco 49ers, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Carolina Panthers. When announcing his retirement, he said, “I can’t wait to begin the next phase of my life where my heart is and never left: Baltimore.”

Torrey and Chanel—now parents of 5-year-old Torrey “T.J.” Jeremiah, 3-year-old Kameron James and 11-month-old Kori Lynn Smith—wasted no time in moving their family back to Maryland. The couple plans to expand the work of their organization by creating new programs or supporting existing programs designed to empower youth and families in Baltimore.

Smith says he has always felt pressure to represent the Terps proudly: “Everything that I do is going to be a reflection of the university in one way or another. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with that.”

As he moves into the next leg of his journey, Smith plans to create an image for himself that has less to do with football.

“The accomplishments on the field and all the things I’ve been a part of with football, that’s not me as a person,” he said. “I’m committed to my family and my faith and my community. It’s always been about that piece, not the game. Life is so much bigger than the game.”

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