YOUNGSTOWN - Home is where the heart is, and for Buffalo Bills wide receiver Brad Smith, that home is Youngstown.
The 2001 Chaney graduate held his sixth-annual True Foundation football camp in his hometown Saturday at Youngstown State University's Stambaugh Stadium, and he said it's special for him to give advice to those whose paths we walked when he was a child.
"It's home," Smith said. "It means a lot. I was in these kids' shoes. I was in a lot of tough situations at times, and it was football and coaching and my teammates that helped me to learn how to persevere through it, learn how to become a man out of it."
Registering for the camp one month in advance, the 250 boys and girls didn't have to pay any money to participate, something Smith said was very important. He thanked YSU, the Bills, the (National Football League), Pepsi and the McGowan Fund, as well as individual donors, for making that possible.
"I wouldn't have it any other way," Smith said. "It means a lot to be able to do this. Just tons of people who just poured into the organization and poured kids so they didn't have to worry about anything. Some people charge $500 for a camp like this, but we were able to do it for free."
Three other NFL players - the Cincinnati Bengals' Dan Herron, the Buffalo Bills' Marcus Easley and the Pittsburgh Steelers' Jericho Cotchery - joined the cast of Smith and other area coaches in teaching the kids about the fundamentals of football.
The only other player with local ties, Herron said he enjoys coming out and helping the kids in the Youngstown-Warren region.
"Brad, he's a hometown guy," Herron said. "I wanted to come here and help him out. I know he's a great guy. Everything's for the kids. I just wanted to come out and support him and help him out."
Going into his third season as a professional, Easley received many tips from Smith when he joined the Bills out of Connecticut in 2011. Being friends on and off the field, Easley said he wanted to see Smith's roots.
"I've always been a firm believer in 'To get support, you have to give support, too.' " Easley said. "It's just another wonderful opportunity to come to Ohio, give back to Brad's community. It was an honor to come out and see where he comes from and teach a group of kids the fundamentals of football."
As for Cotchery, the Steelers' wide receiver became good friends with Smith during their five years together as teammates on the New York Jets from 2006-2010. Cotchery had nothing but high praise for the former Missouri Tiger.
"Humble is thrown out there a lot, but he is truly a humble guy," Cotchery said. "He is truly a guy that anybody can walk up to, ask for an autograph or have a regular conversation with - he is that guy. I feel honored to be able to be a good friend of his and really call him my brother. I want to support him in everything he does."