July 19, 2009

Smith isn't afraid to display his faith

ATLANTA - At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, Douglass High's Garrison Smith is a four-star man-child who is arguably the top high school football player in the entire state of Georgia.

The affable youngster strikes terror in the hearts of opposing running backs and is someone who has to be accounted for by opposing offenses every moment he's on the field. He plays the game with attitude and is not someone to be trifled with on or off the field.

He's also a Christian.

While that itself may not an earth-shaking announcement all by itself, Smith's faith is practiced by more than mere words. His actions speak loudly as well.

"I know a lot of people will laugh at me, but I'm trying to practice abstinence," Smith said. "That's a big thing for me."

While Smith's decision to abstain is primarily faith-based, the 17-year-old received an added boost of inspiration from former Alabama and NFL standout Shaun Alexander

It was in Alexanders' book - Touchdown - that the star running back talked about his vow of abstinence until he met his future and current wife.

"I was inspired when I read it," he said. "At first I was scared and wasn't too sure that I could do it, but when I read the book and found out that Shaun Alexander practiced abstinence and he waited until he got married, that just inspired me. He didn't even kiss his wife until he got married. If he could do it, if Jesus could do it."

But Smith admits it hasn't been easy.

Peer pressure, even for one of the state's top players, can be a difficult thing to overcome.

"It gets crazy sometime. People will tell me 'You're trippin' or 'You're a better man than me,'" Smith said. "Everybody says I'm not going to be able to do it. But I just laugh. I just do the best that I can and try to avoid any situations that might get me in trouble."

Smith isn't the first player Bulldog have heard espouse abstinence before marriage.

Former Georgia great David Pollack often spoke of similar vows, something Smith - though unaware of at the time - spoke of in glowing terms.

"That means a lot. I mean, David Pollack was a legend," Smith said. "It's guys like that I strive to be like. I want to be great like them."

But considering how Smith was raised, that shouldn't come as much surprise.

"I was raised to be a Christian. I always listened to what my grandparents told me about the Bible and when I was old enough to start reading it and understanding it for myself it was just a blessing," he said. "It's one thing to hear it from other people, but it's another to read it for yourself."

Smith says he'll continue to spread the word to youngsters in his community and help out as much as he can.

According to Smith, being a role model is an aspect of his life that he takes extremely seriously.

"I've made a promise to myself that I would go this year to all the middle schools in the area, talk to the eighth graders before they get to high school about the mistakes that I made," he said. "I don't want them to go through some of the things that I had to go through. I feel I can help the younger boys because so many come in with the wrong mindset. I just think I can help. I want to show them that it's one thing to say you're a Christian but another to try and walk the walk."

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