Steelers' Defensive End: Aaron Smith
By Shawn Brown
The 700 Club
In the NFL, some say that the offense sells tickets but the defense wins games. And for Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive end Aaron Smith, there’s no other way to look at it. At 6-feet 5-inches, 298 pounds, he’s one of the most feared in the game. Since entering the league in 1999, he’s had over 36 sacks, 316 tackles, and an interception. But with all of those stats, the real story is how he got to the NFL.
In the words of Aaron Smith:
“I didn’t really want to play football. I wanted to be the next Michael Jordan. But, basketball is my first love. I was playing basketball and the football coach said, ‘you know, you’re a pretty good athlete. ‘Why don’t you come play football?’”
Aaron played football his freshman year, but quit towards the end of the season to play basketball. Even though football coaches pursued him for two years, it was a struggle for him to choose. But he says the real struggle was at home with an abusive father who was struggling with diabetes.
“And at that point, it [diabetes] seemed to change him as a man. He became angry and violent towards a lot of us. It was to a point where a lot of times I’d go to bed at night scared of what he was going to do. I would tell him I loved him, just in case he did something that night, he’d think I was the last one who loved him and he might not kill me.”
When Aaron was 12, his mom decided to leave their father.
“She finally said, ‘I’m going to leave your dad.’”
She moved the family across town. Life seemed to be more peaceful, but for Aaron something was missing.
“I think when my parents separated, I was looking for that hole to be filled.”
Aaron eventually chose football since it provided a way to release his anger, but life without a dad slowly began to take its toll.
“I was really angry at the Lord for giving me the father that I had. I’d go to the basketball courts and see fathers playing with their sons; and meanwhile here I am with the father that I had that didn’t even want to do anything with me. I was pretty bitter about it, almost to point of self -destruction. I had some Christian, moral, strong moral Christian men in my life as coaches. They really took an interest in me and they kind of pulled me up out of the gutter a little bit, enough to get me off to college.”
Just before Aaron graduated from high school, his father died.
“The last time I saw my father, he stood up to hug me at my grandfather’s house and I walked straight passed him. I didn’t even acknowledge him, and a couple of months later he passed. That was a hard moment in my life - I mean at 16. So from that point on, I really struggled.”
After high school, Aaron spent the next five years at the University of Northern Colorado.
“When you’re father’s constantly telling you, ‘You’re not a man. You’re not worth it.’ Well then, what better way to do that, than go beat somebody up on the football field and say, ‘look, I’m whopping you, you know?’ I think I just poured myself into sports and that was really, at that time was my God.”
In 1999, he was selected in the 4th round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. In his mind he had reached the top of his game; but in his heart, again something was missing.
“Here I am living the dream. I got everything. I’ve worked my entire life since l was a small child to get this point and I’m here. And I’m still not happy, you know, what’s wrong? What’s with that?”
One day, his wife received an invitation to attend a Bible study.
“I don’t know how, but she got a pamphlet for a woman’s Bible study for the Steelers and she said, ‘You know, I’m going to check this out, see what it’s about.’ I think it was in a couple of days she accepted Christ. And within two weeks I saw change in my wife. At I mean, a solid two weeks - I couldn’t believe it. I mean, it was remarkable. That’s truly what got me back. Because I’m like man, she’s so content, here I am so miserable. You know, I’m floundering and she seems so content. There’s got to be something to this.”
So Aaron started going to church and gave his life to the Lord. Since then, his career has soared. In 2005, he was selected to the pro bowl and in 2006 he helped the Steelers win Super Bowl XL. Today, Aaron is still a force to be reckoned with on the field. And as for that void in his heart, he says it’s filled with joy.
“The joy Christ gives me - I’m always happy. You can’t take my joy away. No matter what happens in life. We’re talking about your eternal salvation. We’re talking about spending the rest of your life, after you pass away, in heaven with the Lord. That’s the biggest decision you’ll ever make in your life. Life isn’t going to be perfect. But you’ll have someone to do it with you. You’re not doing it by yourself. Christ is right there with you the whole time. It’s the biggest thing you’ll ever do in your life. And it’s the greatest thing you’ll ever do, is to come to know and accept Jesus Christ as your savior.”
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