Mercer grad Smith departs UK football for other passions

Published 9:17 pm Wednesday, May 8, 2019


Contributing writer

He’s always loved football and he certainly has loved being part of the University of Kentucky football team the last two years. However, sophomore Dee Smith knows it is time for him to follow a different passion — his love for ministry.

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The former Mercer County all-state defensive back has decided to give up his spot as a walk-on running back so he can pursue other opportunities.

“It was definitely hard to tell the coaches what I was doing. The players knew where my head was this last semester and I have a lot of good friends on the football team,” said Smith, who was also part of two state championship track teams. “The coaches didn’t see it coming. It’s not like I hate football or was quitting because it was too hard. I just thought it was time for me to dedicate my life to doing different work. I am definitely going to miss football because I’ve been doing it for so long but I know I’ve made the right decision.”

Smith speaks with students at West Jessamine High School. Photo contributed

This summer, he has an internship with Northwestern Mutual Insurance. Smith, who had a 4.0 grade-point average in high school and has been on the academic honor roll at UK, is a finance major who has considered becoming a financial advisor.

“I am interested in stocks and things,” Smith said. “This will give me a chance to see the insurance side of things and see if I enjoy that.”

When school resumes, he has an internship with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an organization he’s embraced since high school. He was on the FCA leadership team at UK and even did a devotional for the women’s basketball team last season. He was approached by Dakotah Euton, FCA assistant area director, about the position.

Smith is the “character coach” for the Lexington Christian Academy baseball team now. He had an immediate interest in the FCA position but knew taking him would mean he would not have time for football.

His father, Donald Smith, is a former Harrodsburg and Western Kentucky football standout who is now athletics director at Mercer County High School. He’s also a minister.

Dee Smith said there were “some disagreements” with his father about what to do.

“He just wanted me to make the right decision,” Dee Smith said. “He played football and I wanted to make sure I was not throwing away a chance to make a big impact.”

Once UK offensive line coach John Schlarman told Dee Smith he thought the FCA internship was a good move, that helped finalize the decision.

“I am still going to hang out with guys on the team,” Dee Smith said. “It was a hard decision. I dedicated almost my whole life to getting there I am.”

However, he was already doing a Bible study for the Christian Student Fellowship at UK. He has 10 to 15 participants, both non-athletes and some athletes.

“I just knew I couldn’t be selfish and not spread this Word,” Smith said. “I prayed and felt God was showing me signs. He was telling me I had a platform to do my work for him.  I couldn’t say no to him.”

He’s going to work a FCA camp for high school and middle school students this summer at Western Kentucky University.

Photo contributed
Dee Smith speaks at a past FCA meeting at UK.

“I’ll have a chance now to be involved in more opportunities like that,” Smith, who was active in Key Club, Beta Club, Music Club and Pep Club in high school, said. “I will get to share my faith more. I’ve been talking to high school and middle school students and volunteering after school to try and impact all the kids I can.”

He’s not convinced exactly what he wants to follow for his career path, but he knows his Christian faith will always be a major part of his life just as it was even when he was playing football.

“Meeting kids who do not have the same privileges I did growing up motivates me to help them,” Dee Smith said. “Just talking to them reminds me how blessed I am. Some kids come to college and do not know Jesus and getting to love on them and share how God loves them is important to me. I want to share that message with everybody I can. Giving up football was a hard decision but I also know it was the right decision.”