Kevin Smith “The Art of Winning”
“The Art of Winning”
By: Robert “Bull” Wilson
Kevin Rey Smith knows what it’s like to be a winner. As a first round NFL draft pick for the three time consecutive Super bowl winning Dallas Cowboys, Smith helped guide the team to their first Super bowl win since the 1970s his rookie year as a cornerback with the team. He grew up the youngest sibling in a family of eight, in the Texas/Louisiana border town of Orange, Texas – located approximately 90 miles east of Houston. His first taste of athletic success came when he played football with the West Orange Starks ISD Mustangs, who just happens to share the same team colors as the Dallas Cowboys (Blue and Silver). As cornerback, Smith helped lead the team to two back-to-back 4A State Champions in 1986 and 1987. Heavily courted by college recruiter from Louisiana, Houston, and Oklahoma, he eventually settled for Texas A&M University in College Station. Smith experienced continued success as a 1991 All American cornerback for the Aggies, and helped lead the team to a Southwest Conference Championship. Smith finished his college football career as arguably the greatest cornerback in Texas A&M history. Consequently, he was inducted into the Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997. After nine seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, Smith finally turned his interest to other pursuits. Soul and Salsa Magazine’s Sports Editor Robert Wilson recently had the honor of discussing the outstanding career with the Cowboy legend.
Soul and Salsa: Growing up in Orange, Texas, who was your first sports hero?
Kevin Smith: Andre Robertson. He is from Orange, and played for The University of Texas (at Austin) and the New York Yankee’s; however, really anyone from my hometown who had made it to the college or the professional level. But, Robertson was perhaps my first big influence.
S&S: How did you discover your gift for athleticism?
Smith: When I was younger, I was always smaller than my peers. I had to prove myself time and time again that I belonged on the court, field, etc., and I always succeeded. Once I figured out it was not size that mattered, but heart, I knew I had something special.
How did it feel to win two back-to-back high school championships in football?
I appreciate those championships because they held a bunch of young men accountable for a shared goal, as well as the life lessons it taught me on the process of success. Yes, we had talent, but the effort we put into achieving a common goal really made us champions.
You were recruited by the University of Houston, Louisiana State University, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M University. What made you choose Texas A&M?
I chose A&M because of the quality of the coaches and the players. The Aggie program was a lot like the one at West Orange Stark. Plus, I wanted to stay in Texas. That decision turned out to be one hundred times better than I expected. My teammates were like family to me. We would challenge, push, and criticize and compete with each another to improve our overall game. I would not trade those four years anything.
What, if anything, would you change about your experiences at Texas A&M?
I think the one thing I would change is that we (as a team) were more engaged with campus life and activities. We were somewhat isolated in our dorm doing our own thing.
After so much success in high school and college, what did you think of your NFL first round draft pick from the Dallas Cowboys?
Getting drafted by the Cowboys was a true blessing and, a dream come true. Being in a position to be selected in the first round takes me all the way back to the success I had achieved previously. At the time, The Cowboys was loaded with talent because of the Herschel Walker trade. All we had to do was put it together.
What made playing for the Cowboys special?
Everything. I tell people all the time that we were so young and full of energy. We just played the game, and the best part was that the practices were like the actual games. The games were easy. Winning three Super bowl championships in my first four years with the team spoiled me. It spoiled all of us. We just thought that was the way things were going to work every year.
Switching gears a bit, what nonprofits are you aligned/affiliated with?
I train over 50 guys at the Michael Johnson Performance Center (MJP). I try to instill in them that they have to put in the work, and working out has to become part of their everyday lives. Football, or any team sport, teaches the best life lesson any person can get. I tell them, “Don’t just go through the motions. Make a science out of what you are trying to do. That applies both on and off the field.”
Tell us a little about your personal life.
Well, I have two daughters, Kevaughn 22, and Elizabeth who is 14. Kevaughn just graduated from Spellman College, and is headed to a mission in Africa as part of her medical school training. She plans to become a dermatologist. My baby girl, Elizabeth, has been accepted by IMG (International Management Group) Academy in Florida, which provides athletes with a, “custom-designed academic curriculum, combined with advanced athletic training to prepare them for success on and off the court.” She’s plays a guard in basketball.
And finally, what are some of the things you like to do to relax, or what are some of your hobbies?
I love cooking and eating crawfish, and listen to old school music (hip hop and R&B are my favorites). I love neo soul as well.