By Stephanie Grayson
Not much is better than family, friends, and football! It’s even more special when you are in the NFL setting watching a former student making plays and gaining respect.
On Sunday, Dec. 2, family and friends of Greenville native and Baltimore Raven’s Za’Darius Smith had a chance to fellowship at the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta to witness his fierceness and ferociousness on the professional gridiron.
The amount of support and love shown by his family matched with that of his friends made one big happy family. We sat together, cheered together, and celebrated together as the Ravens defeated the Atlanta Falcons 26-16.
After the game, we had a chance to meet and greet Za’Darius and his teammates. Za’Darius met each of us with an affectionate hug, a huge smile and a warm welcome. I, for one, was super proud and excited to be a part of this circle of family and friends.
I can only imagine just how proud Miss Sharon, his mom, is of him and his accomplishments. Speaking of accomplishments, there are many and counting. The Ravens have the privilege of being the only NFL team in 2018 who has three different players to post seven sacks this season and yes, you guessed it…Za’Darius is one of them!
Since entering the NFL in 2015, he has increased his pressure on pass rush snaps by almost 50% and is steadily gaining momentum. He has led his team to a top three spot in the NFL for most quarterback hits for this season and is a top ten contender for the most individual quarterback hits in the NFL.
Can you say proud? His humble beginning has taken him to humble successfulness. Let Za’Darius be an example to all that dreams can come true and will come true if you only believe.
Sometimes we set out on what we think will make us successful only to discover that we have something else greater in us that will push us to something higher and far beyond what we even thought.
With the athletic skills shown on the basketball court during high school, it would not have been a surprise to see him play in the NBA. However, the surprise came when the gridiron was given a chance his senior year in high school to be used as a stepping stone to get to the next level and ultimately, the highest level: the NFL.
Thank you Miss Sharon for giving the world a Za’Darius Smith! Thank you Za’Darius for never giving up! Thank you Za’Darius for giving my son an experience of a lifetime! Thank you Za’Darius for making us proud! Keep looking up and keep moving forward!