By Gabriel Katz
College Park, MD – It was a strange sight: Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith attempting to outrun Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall, going deep for… a layup. And Smith’s Baltimore teammate, linebacker Terrell Suggs, rarely overmatched on defense, sizing up hip-hop superstar Wale as the rapper dribbled hard towards the basketball hoop. It was not your average pickup game, but Saturday afternoon’s contest brought numerous big-name athletes and famous personalities together for a good cause on behalf of both the Torrey Smith Foundation as well as Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan’s Blitz for the Better Foundation.
The game was appropriately dubbed the “Battle of the Beltway,” a reference to the highway separating the Redskins’ FedEx Field from M&T Bank Stadium, the home of the Ravens. An annual affair for Smith ever since he created his foundation in 2011, this year’s matchup raised the stakes; the game would not only serve to declare local supremacy, but it was also the first time at the event’s new home, the University of Maryland’s Comcast Center. The match had been held in Smith’s hometown high school gym in Colonial Beach, Virginia since its inception, but due to popularity and his new partnership with Kerrigan, it was time for a change in venue.
“The more people that come, the more people enjoy it, the more people we can help through our foundations,” Smith said before the game. “At the end of the day that’s what it’s all about.”
Attendance was announced at nearly 4,500, many of whom braved the rain to wait in the parking lot prior to the game for the best seats in the house. All were rewarded as Smith, Kerrigan and friends put on a back-and-forth show with rather impressive play, even though many of those participating hadn’t played recently or even practiced until the day of. Those who couldn’t put the ball in the net could at least complete passes to fans, as mini autographed footballs flew into the stands throughout the day.
“I remember when I was younger I would’ve loved for somebody to have did that for me, do what Torrey’s doing for the kids, just giving back,” said Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden, who is a personal friend of Smith. “It’s not that hard, I enjoy doing things like that and… it just helps kids out so much, the little bit that we do, it goes a long way. Everything Torrey stands for… it’s a lot bigger than football.”
Just as Smith seeks to reach out to the community in which he plays, Haden is active in the Cleveland area, bringing local youth to football and basketball games. Both men grew up knowing each other as boys in Virginia, and the paths of their families crossed again in 2012; Haden’s grandfather, a pastor in Virginia, was in attendance for the funeral of Tevin Jones, Smith’s younger brother who died in a motorcycle accident.
Beyond just the game, the Smith family also used Saturday’s gathering to announce the first annual awarding of the Tevin Jones Memorial Scholarship, given to four high school students, two from Maryland and two from Virginia.
“It’s going to be a big moment for my family as well as our foundation,” Smith said of the scholarship. “Folks have been supporting us since he passed, and through him, through the scholarship and through the help of others it allows his name to live on and he’s able to help others even though he’s not here.”
Many of Smith’s family members crowded the sidelines, including his mother, Monica Jenkins. A single mom who Smith often acknowledges as one of his biggest inspirations, Jenkins wore a shirt bearing an image of her deceased son.
“It’s very emotional,” Jenkins said prior to the game. “At the same time, I’m very proud because my son is going to live through this foundation. For the rest of my life, he’s going to live. And it’s just a blessing.”
Smith was supported by his Ravens teammates Haloti Ngata, Jacoby Jones, Tyrod Taylor and Suggs, who played hard and laughed even harder throughout the day. Kerrigan was joined by Redskins Kirk Cousins, Hall, and others, and additional stars included Anquan Boldin, formerly of the Ravens and T.Y. Hilton of the Indianapolis Colts.
Jones eventually won the game in overtime on a put-back layup, which sent his teammates into frenzy and left both Smith and Kerrigan with smiles on their faces. Kerrigan had spent most of the day as coach after having offseason knee surgery. Smith had gotten some good playing minutes, but was just as interested in walking up and down the stands throughout the entire stadium. Flanked by his pregnant wife Chanel, they greeted and thanked fans until the entire party was finally asked to leave the building.
“My foundation is everything to me,” Smith said after the win, with family and fans waiting to celebrate the victory. “I feel like football is a platform, and I try to use it to help as many people as possible.”
Updated April 5, 2014–