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Family, friends follow Smith to Super Bowl

BY TAFT COGHILL JR.

After the Baltimore Ravens won the AFC championship  Jan. 20, their players were given three days off.

The team needed time to recuperate from the physical pounding of 19 games, but there wasn’t much relaxation during the stretch.

It was a hectic period as players decided who they would invite to Super Bowl XLVII Sunday in New Orleans against the San Francisco 49ers.

Ravens’ wide receiver Torrey Smith had to make hotel arrangements and travel plans for more than a dozen of his  family members and friends.

“Oh, my goodness,” said Smith a Colonial Beach native and Stafford High School graduate, “that’s been the worst part about it. But I’m glad we got that out of the way first.

“I’ve got my family coming down and a few of my high school coaches—all the people who watched me from day one. So I’m excited about that.”

Troy Smith shows off the Baltimore Ravens logo he had cut into his hair at his home on Tuesday, Smith’s older brother Torrey is on the Baltimore Ravens.  (Elijah Nouvelage/The Free Lance-Star)

Several of Smith’s family members and two of his Stafford coaches departed Baltimore–Washington International airport Thursday. His mother, Monica Jenkins, is scheduled to leave Friday.

Jenkins said she’s struggled this week to balance the start of a new job in Washington, interview requests from the national media, preparing her children for the trip and responding to well-wishes from friends and family members.

“Overwhelming is an understatement,” she said.

But in the midst of the workload, there has been excitement, too.

Roger Pierce, who was Smith’s head coach from his freshman through junior years at Stafford, said he’s thrilled to be attending his first Super Bowl.

He recalls his brother, John Pierce, a longtime Stafford assistant, providing rides for Smith to practice. He said Smith was always “attentive and eager to learn.”

“The big thing about him was the character he displayed,” Roger Pierce said. “He was always a caring person, someone who was willing to listen, to cooperate and do the right thing in the classroom. To me, that’s what made the difference for him at each level.”

Troy Smith, 22, said he’s looking forward to seeing his brother realize a lifelong dream in only his second season in the NFL. Troy Smith had a barber shave the Ravens’ emblem in his head this week to show support for the team.

He said he appreciates the sacrifices Torrey  made for the family, such as helping prepare meals and dress his six younger brothers and sisters while their mother worked and took college courses.

He said although Torrey  is only two years older than him, he’s “24 going on 60.”

“He raised us,” Troy Smith said. “He’s my brother, but I look up to him like he’s a father.

“I call him for advice. He tells me when I’m doing something stupid. He doesn’t just play the big brother. He’s really like a father figure to all of us. ”

Little sister, Illegra Smith, said she’s been bombarded with questions this week at Conway Elementary School in Stafford County, where she’s a fifth-grader. She said her principal and teacher asked her, “Can I fit in your suitcase?”

“I just laughed,” Illegra said.

Integra Jenkins is a junior at Stafford High. She said she isn’t a big football fan, but is looking forward to eating jambalaya in New Orleans.

Everyone in the family agreed that brother Tevin Jones would’ve been more excited than anyone else. Jones died in a motorcycle accident in Westmoreland County on Sept. 22 at age 19.

Troy Smith said his younger brother, known as “Lil Chris,” would’ve been “running in circles right now because he’s a football nut.” The family will wear a patch on their jerseys to honor Jones at the Super Bowl.

“Everybody’s excited for Chris even though he’s not here, because out of everybody, he would’ve been the one jumping up and down,” Monica Jenkins said. “He would’ve been the one running around hollering, ‘We’re going to New Orleans! Get ready for the plane!’”

Torrey Smith’s performance in a win over the New England Patriots the night following his brother’s death earned him a nomination for the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the Year. The winner will be announced Saturday night in New Orleans.

Jenkins will be on hand to represent her son, who won’t be able to attend. She said sitting alongside nominees Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Victor Cruz and Kirk Cousins will be the highlight of her weekend.

She said it’s been quite an adjustment going from a small-town girl from Colonial Beach to someone in the national spotlight. An ESPN reporter visited the family’s home this week. CNN and NFL Network all want to tell the family’s story, as well.

“I told them, ‘I’m not doing any of the interviews until I’m down in New Orleans,’” Jenkins said with a laugh. “I’m not doing my hair twice. I’m doing it once. And I wasn’t getting my hair done early for none of them, so they can catch me when I get down there.”

Taft Coghill Jr.: 540/374-5526

tcoghill@freelancestar.com

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