Name: Rod Smith
Address: 4615 N. 22nd St., Ste. 11
Hometown: Thornton, Colo.
Years played: 1983–87
Collegiate Honors: 1986 NCAA Punt Return Champion; 2nd Team All-Big Eight 86–87; Left Nebraska as the career and single season punt return average leader
Professional Honors: The Leadership Consortium Community Service Award, Francis Young Community Heroes Award
Working through challenges is nothing new to former Nebraska split end Rod Smith. A season-ending knee injury in high school did not stop Smith from leaving his home state of Colorado for rival school Nebraska, despite the negative press he received. He arrived at Nebraska in the shadow of the Triplets – quarterback Turner Gill, running back Mike Rozier and wide receiver Irving Fryar – but worked hard enough to earn playing time as a freshman, and returned a punt for a touchdown in his first game as a Husker.
Smith enjoyed a fantastic career as a split end and the Huskers’ top punt returner, earning national prominence at that spot. A broken leg his senior year in the game against Oklahoma ended his Husker career, but he was still able to play in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders. Following his NFL career, Smith turned his attention to helping others work through adversity, founding his own business as well as two non-profit organizations. But where has that taken him? Get the inside info with Former Husker 411.
- Who are you? I am a simple, hard working person who is grateful to have the opportunity to play at the University of Nebraska and receive an education. I love what I do for a living and cherish my friends. I wake up every day with the opportunity to serve the community. Life is good.
- What’s the most significant personal achievement or event that’s happened in your life since you left Nebraska? In 1991 I started a non-profit organization, FutureforKIDS. Our mission is to provide at-risk children education through mentorship and sports programs. I am proud to say we have served over 129,000 children and families through the charity and we are still going strong. Our website is www.futureforkids.org.
- What’s the one thing you learned through your student-athlete experience at Nebraska that’s helped you the most? Coach Osborne ran the program with integrity, structure and a purpose, all of which play a role in my professional and personal life.
- What are you doing now? I recently launched a new charity, Helping Hands for Freedom, to support military families, specifically the children. The children of our wounded service members, and those who lose a parent to war, suffer not only from the devastating loss of a parent and a life-changing home environment, but also from the absence of a significant contributor to their growth, development, and education. Children whose parents serve multiple deployments also face considerable change. To these children facing such significant issues, caring mentors provide the vital support, encouragement, and inspiration to help them reach their goals in life. Our website can be found at www.helpinghandsforfreedom.org.
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