Vincent Smith, Jadeveon Clowney, The Hit, and What Followed

If you’re a casual football fan, or even if you’re not, you’ve probably seen The Hit – one of the most famous tackles in the history of the game.

It was January 1, 2013, when Michigan played South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. In the fourth quarter, with the Wolverines hanging on to a 22-21 lead, Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner handed off to Vincent Smith.

Smith, who stands only 5-6, is from Pahokee, Florida, a tiny, impoverished town next to Lake Okeechobee. Pahokeeproduces two principle products: mud by the truckload, and world-class football players. The kids thererace rabbits through the sugar cane – and often beat them.

Smith passed more than a few rabbits himself, and used that speed to score ten touchdowns at Michigan. But on this play, Michigan’s offensive linemen screwed up their assignments. That allowed South Carolina’s star defender, Jadeveon Clowney, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 270 pounds, to run full-speed at Smith,z right as he received the handoff.

Clowney knocked Smith’s helmet off, and the ball out of his hands. Clowney picked it up with one hand, and one play later, South Carolina took the lead. After South Carolina won, what everyone was talking about then, and now, was “The Hit.”

Since then, Clowney has played five years in the NFL, been selected twice for the Pro Bowl, and become a multi-millionaire.

Meanwhile, Smith wasn’t drafted, but he graduated on time, then came up with an idea to help his hometown. He said, “We’ve got this rich soil all around us, and all these great athletes, but no place to get healthy food to keep our bodies moving. Why not build our own little community garden?”

Smith worked hard to organize the effort, which converts forgotten lots into urban gardens. In the process, they provide health education, job training, and healthy food for communities that could use all those things.

Smith thought this would be a great way to connect the entire community, not just young or old.

“I wanted to inspire them,” he said.

After Smith’s group, now called Team Gardens, started producing bananas, mangos, and passion fruit in Pahokee, Smith put his old teammate, Martaviouis Odums, in charge. Then he set up a new project in Flint, which requires endless paperwork and a lot of fund-raising to overcome the astronomical cost of clean water there.

But Smith and his group have persisted. They recently expanded to Ann Arbor, where they’re working with senior homes to grow produce on their property. And they’re about to start a new garden in Detroit, at the corner of Grand River and Seven Mile.

“I feel great about it,” Smith says. “It’s so overwhelming hearing the community feedback. It’s the same feeling I got scoring a touchdown in the Big House. I’m super excited about this.”

Looking back on it would he trade places with his nemesis, Jadeveon Clowney?

“If you’d ask me five years ago,” he admits, “I’d have said yes. But now, I wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world.”

Smith doesn’t have Clowney’s wealth or fame. But if you’re judging who’s making a difference, the little guy who got hit is the one making the bigger impact.

* * * * *

Please join the conversation, but remember: I run only those letters from those who are not profane or insane, and who include their full name. 

My latest book, “The Best of Bacon: Select Cuts,” is on its second printing.

Radio stuff: On Friday mornings, these commentaries run at 8:50 on Michigan Radio (91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit and Flint, and 104.1 Grand Rapids), and a few minutes later,  I join Sam Webb and Ira Weintraub LIVE from 9:05 to 9:25 on WTKA.com, 1050 AM.

I also join Michigan Radio’s great Cynthia Canty on her afternoon Stateside show every Monday for a few minutes, and occasionally on NPR’s Morning Edition, and the afternoon Here & Now show. Check ’em out!

Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnubacon.  Pushing for 43,000 followers.   THANK YOU!

Like this story? Please feed the blog, and keep ’em coming!

Hope to see you on the road!
-John
johnubacon.com

 

 

 

 

 

Share

Posts by 

7 comments Leave a comment  

  • Greg Shea June 29, 2018 at 10:06 am

    Nice piece. Thanks…

    Reply
  • Nick Roumel June 29, 2018 at 10:56 am

    I had the privilege of being at a breakfast that hosted Vincent talking about this worthy project. Thanks for highlighting it John. (And hi Greg Shea!)

    Reply
  • Ali Haji-Sheikh June 29, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    Great read, thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  • johnubacon June 29, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    Great thanks, all — including the legendary AHS!

    Reply
  • Nicholas Terry June 29, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    He is a great example of what a true Michigan Man is.

    Reply
  • Your name Michael Porter(Required) June 29, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    Message (Required)wonderful story! Thanks to Mr Smith for “paying it forward” and thank you for publicizing his efforts!

    Reply
  • Your name (Tom Delaney Required) June 29, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    Inspiring. Thanks for helping Flint, my birthplace

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enter your keyword: