ST. PETERSBURG — The grassy area at Bay Vista Park positioned just slightly over from the monkey bars, swings, sliding board and other playground equipment, serve as the perfect make-shift football field. There on the field, six-year-old Christian Smith is flanked wide to the left of his grandfather, Cornelius Smith, who is the playground quarterback.
This day—with the sun shining bright and a slight breeze—is a grand time to give instructions on the basics football. Christian is focused intensely on running the perfect receiver route and the snap count as he secures his left plant foot to the turf-post right, Z slant on one is the called.
Christian’s stance becomes stiffened, and with a rocket launch intention, he explodes off the line of scrimmage. Seconds later, the ball sailed high through the air in a tight spiral. With his out-stretched arms, he softens his hands for the ball to land perfectly in the web pocket. It’s done like a professional and his grandfather greets him with a hug and applause.
“This is my lifeblood and I love spending time with them. These are my grands and I have them every weekend,” said Smith, referring to Christian and his sisters, Ajada and Tanyah.
Grandpa Smith loves being a positive role model for his grandchildren. He wants them to know what love looks and feels like.
“There is no better way than to spend time with them and enjoy them growing up.”
Smith is a medical tech in the healthcare field. He works full-time in Lakewood Ranch and part time at Grand Villa to provide extra for his daughter Kemuria, 4, and his grandchildren ages 6, 9 and 10.
With three girls around, Smith has to balance his time with Christian, the only boy. Rumor has it that Christian eats and sleep with his football and guards it as if it were gold. Any suspected mistreatment of his pigskin is sure to find his wrath.
“I like to play football because it’s fun. I play with the Bandits (Northeast) with my friends and sometimes with my granddaddy,” said Christian. “He throws me passes and teaches me how to run patterns like my coach. It’s a lot of fun!”
The coach Christian is referencing is Seabron Reese, a flag team coach at Northeast Bandits and a physical education teacher. Reese is one of the most sought-after youth leaders and coaches who seem to perform magic with developing youth to be fundamentally sound and solid leaders.
Smith received his family values from his mother, the late Rosa Jackson. She spent 23 years preparing Thanksgiving meals and serving them to families at Campbell Park. She taught her children to give back while taking care of their own, a lesson grandpa Cornelius has learned well.
“When I get off work in Lakewood Ranch I head home. By the time I get there, the children are at home. I pick them up from my daughter every weekend. We come to the park, maybe stop by McDonald’s for a snack, and let them play. I’ll cook dinner, watch a movie or something and turn in for the night.”
Mother Jackson insisted on not letting the streets raise her children. She told her son to do his best to try to pour into them. Smith received the message well. For most weekends, the swing set and grassy area at Bay Vista Park provide a suitable play area for a loving father to be grand!
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