Playing soccer has been a gift. Being smart has been a choice. A movement for those who have chosen to be smart in their lives...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Smart Guy Rob Smith Honored by the JT Dorsey Foundation

We are proud of 'Smart Guy' Rob Smith, Vice President of Soccer Development and Relations for the Philadelphia Union who is being honored this week by the JT Dorsey Foundation with a 'Service Through Soccer' Award for his hard work in the community.  Smart guys give back!

August 22, 2011
Harrisburg, Pa. – The JT Dorsey Foundation’s 1st Annual JTDF Service through Soccer Award will be presented August 24th during a halftime ceremony at the Philly Union vs Harrisburg City Islanders game to Eric Pettis of the Harrisburg City Islanders and Rob Smith of the Philadelphia Union, in honor of their impactful work with young people and their communities. 

The JT Dorsey Foundation is committed to providing opportunities to expose youth, particularly those who have limited resources and services, to soccer and the positive youth development skills that come along with team sports and cooperative activities.  The organization firmly believes that soccer can be a developmental vehicle for life, and this experience is enhanced by the role models and dedicated coaches who graciously volunteer their time and services to help young people learn the sport and all of its life lessons. 

Two such role models are Eric Pettis and Rob Smith who have worked with and supported the organization since its inception. Rob and Eric have both provided opportunities for JTDF youth to attend both Union and Islander games and have provided equipment, resources and community partnerships to allow participants to learn valuable life skills while playing, coaching and officiating the game of soccer.  Rob and Eric’s involvement has model team work, good sportsmanship, and philanthropy to the teens participating in the JTDF, their families and their communities.

From its inception, the JT Dorsey Foundation has run on the core belief that every child, regardless of their origins or station in life, has potential and promise.  “Having community leaders support this belief and reach out again and again, year after year, asking what they can do to support youth development through soccer has allowed this program to grow so rapidly in a short amount of time.  Last year we served over 700 young people, exposing them to soccer and all of its life lessons.” Said JT Dorsey, founder of the organization.  “Rob and Eric not only support us with resources, they attend the events, meet the young people and make them feel valuable.  This award is a way to show them (Rob & Eric) how valuable they are to us and the young people in our communities.”
The awards will be given at halftime of the Union v. Islanders match on August 24th.  The match will be the Union’s second appearance at City Island, after playing to a 1-1 draw on July 27, 2010.  The Union ( is expected to bring their full squad to the match, which will be a great treat for fans that support both organizations.  All tickets for the match, youth and adult, will be $15 general admission. Ages 3 and under are free. Tickets may be purchased at or by calling 717-441-GOAL. Tickets will be limited; purchasing in advance is strongly recommended.

About the JT Dorsey Foundation:
The JT Dorsey Foundation currently offers programs for youth ages 5-16 located in Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon and York, Pennsylvania.  The JT Dorsey Foundation provides key youth development services that are lacking, but necessary, to underserved populations in those areas.  The JTDF model contains programs that address children and adolescent’s academic, physical, character, social and emotional needs.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Smart Moves: Beads by Wood on the Rise

Being a 'Smart Guy' is a ongoing behavior, so we are checking in with some of our favorite 'Smart Guys'. Young businessman on the rise, Guy Wood Jr., shares with us what he's been up to in the past few months and how he is staying smart...

A lot of things have been happening since we last spoke to you.  What does it mean to you to now be a college graduate?

The experience was like no other.  I graduated in may with a bachelors in Business Management.  My course of study helped me develop the skills I need to run my business. I got a chance to mature and learn, and I felt very accomplished walking across the stage.  I want kids to know the value of staying in school, make it all the way through, even when it gets hard.

Are you still working two jobs or just Beads by Woods exclusively?
Actually, I have been working three jobs in order to reach my goals!  All summer I have been working with my father, Guy Wood Sr. at his company, 5001 Flavors, plus the part time job I've had throughout college, and of course, Beads by Wood.

So update us on what has been happening with Beads by Woods in the last six months?

R & B Singer Lloyd and Guy Jr.

My biggest job has been developing my brand and getting a good name behind it and putting out quality products. My business has depended on word of mouth advertising, so the product has to be high quality for people to recommend it to others. Customer satisfaction has been my number one goal and I want to be known for having a good, quality product. I have continued to work with a diverse client base, expanding my business internationally as well as working with some prominent artists in the hip-hop culture.  Terrance J. and Lloyd from 106 & Park have both been wearing Beads by Wood.  Vado and Jadakiss are also wearing bracelets.  David Rush has a chain and bracelet and wears it all the time.

What have been some of the challenges?
The biggest challenge has been managing all of the work as my business expands. Product development, management and customer service are all done by me.  But even with that challenge, I just finished a photo shoot for the company and launced our website

'Elegence' by Beads by Wood

How are you staying motivated?
The feedback I get from my customers helps me to go forward and not give up.  I also have goals I set for myself that I keep in the forefront of my mind and know that I refuse to give up on my goals.  I keep creating new designs and new styles of jewelry. The spike bracelets that we recently launched are doing really well and I just launched men and women necklaces that are getting great feedback. Five years from now I see Beads by Wood with an even bigger international presence, better name recognition and a larger market share within the industry.  I'm also working towards incorporating medal work jewelry.

'Sharp' & 'Silver Bullet'

We love the pieces that Beads by Wood has shown and the fact that the company has already incorporated giving back, participating in fundraisers for community based organizations and being a role model for other young men.  When we touched based with Guys father, 'Smart Guy' Guy Wood Sr. he said the following about Guy Jr.'s achievements: "I am so proud of the overall success and overwhelming positive response that Beads by Woods has received. The superb product is well crafted and undeniably fashionable. Glad that the entrepreneurial spirit that I possess has been passed on to my son.  I see how focused, creative, hard working, forward thinking and detail oriented he is about every aspect of his business. I'm very proud."

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Good Life--Lorenzo Alexander's Story

As he approaches the front door of his home after a long day of work, his stress begins to evaporate into thin air as he hears a sound that brightens up his day and delivers a smile across his face. It’s the pitter pat of little feet as his kids sprint towards the door. At work he is used to being the one delivering punishing hits to his opposition but ironically at home he is the one on the receiving end,  getting group tackled by his two daughters and son screaming at the top of their little lungs, “Hey Daddy!”

These are experiences that our newest California Smart Guy and Washington Redskins outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander did not experience as a child. Alexander grew up in Oakland, California and was raised primarily by his mother, Stephanie Moore; whom he credits for shaping and molding him into the husband and father that he is today. “My mom held everything down as a single mother,” Alexander said. “She made a lot of sacrifices, now that I am married and a parent; I understand how hard it was for her to do.”

Alexander grew up in Oakland, during a time of heavy gang violence, drugs and where more people around him were doing the wrong things instead of the right things. “I had to make the conscience decision not to go that route,” Alexander said. "It can be so enticing especially when you are in need of money right now to buy the latest shoes and clothes that you may not have or have another way to get. It is an easy fix but you have to realize that something that comes easy is not really anything that is going to last you a long time.”

“My uncle, Steven Moore, stepped into my life at an early age to fill in that father role.” Alexander explained. “Although he had his own family, he was married with three daughters, he always took out time to spend with me. Whether he was coaching me in baseball or football, he really showed me the value of having good work ethic. He never just bought me a pair of cleats, I had to cut the grass or do something to earn them. He taught me self-worth and was a steadfast positive male influence in my life.”

Alexander maintained that work ethic throughout middle, high school, college and continues to hold on to it in his professional career. He graduated from St. Mary’s high school in Albany, California with a 3.8 GPA, which helped him earn a scholarship to the University of California at Berkeley. During his time at Cal, Alexander was a four year starter for the Golden Bears and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies and All-American honors. But despite his success, when the 2005 NFL draft rolled around, Alexander was not selected. He eventually signed with the Carolina Panthers as an undrafted rookie free agent. Alexander was released by the Panthers and later signed by the Baltimore Ravens but again was released in September of 2006.

“I was always gifted athletically,” Alexander recalled. “I have always been an All American or the top guy on my team until I got to the NFL, where I didn’t even get drafted when I thought I was supposed to. I could have easily given up on my dream at that point.”  This humbling experience made Alexander more determined to make his dream come true Alexander kept pushing forward and tried to learn everything he could to make himself more valuable to a team. Alexander displayed versatility in practice, playing several different positions along the defense and even on offense. Currently, Alexander is one of the starting outside linebacker for the Washington Redskins.

“It took me about a year and a half to break through and make the team.” Alexander said. “Just battling through, making sacrifices, always believing in myself and once I got my opportunity, showing up and producing. Hall of Fame Coach Joe Gibbs gave me that opportunity in ‘07 and I made sure to show up and make plays when I had the opportunity to do so. I seized the moment and I have never looked back.”

Alexander wants  young people to know that they will have to make choices in life. Choices that will on one hand look easy but could eventually land them in some trouble or other choices that may look hard but will be the right thing to do. He advises young people not to be afraid to reach out to the people around them that are positive. “There are people in the community who are doing the right things. Find those people that are in the community who are successful and find different programs that can help you,” said Alexander, “ if you really want to help yourself, reach. There are a lot of people out there that are willing to help you, you don’t have to do it all on your own. No one ever makes it on their own. Even the most successful people in the world have had someone to help them along the way. There are always resources around you that you can take advantage of like going down to the Youth For Tomorrow centers. These resources can help you be successful and give back to your community one day.”

Lorenzo views himself as a Smart Guy because he successful negotiated the struggles of a single parent environment and the pressures that come from growing up in the heart of Oakland, CA. His choices to associate himself with the right people and do the right things led him down the Smart Guy path. “I am a Smart Guy because I surround myself with people that are smarter than me, who can help me make great decisions.” Alexander continued.  “I think sometimes we get caught up in our own ego and think that we can do everything on our own and think we know best, but unless you have great people around you to help you do those things, you will never reach your full potential.”

Giving back to his community is something that Alexander takes great pride in. He created the Lorenzo Alexander ACES Foundation in 2008, where the mission is to support youth through emphasizing self-Accountability, taking pride in our Community, striving for Educational Excellence while promoting a healthy mind and body through Sports.

The Lorenzo Alexander ACES Foundation hosted its annual Hold The Line football camp on June 25-26 from 9:30-2:00 pm at Oakland Tech High School. Camp participants were taught some of the basic athletic drills and also some things that they can do on their own to stay healthy and to become better athletes. The camp also had mentoring talks, life skills discussions, with people who grew up in the area that are no longer playing ball, but they have become successful in different career paths such as fire fighters, personal trainers or accountants etc. These guys have played college ball but have transitioned to another profession. “I really want kids to see that there are other things in the world outside of being and entertainer or an athlete and it is all up to them to take advantage of it.” Alexander said. “These guys that they will see before them came from the same place that they are right now.”

The ACES Foundation also puts on back to school events where students are provided with backpacks and school supplies. The ACES Foundation has partnered up with Claremont Middle School (where Alexander attended) and established mentoring programs throughout the school year for about 20 kids where the goal is to stress the importance of going to college. The foundation also holds fundraisers throughout the year, hosts a celebrity bowling event and provide grants to help the kids pay for their AAU or Babe Ruth teams.
Alexander was honored to be invited to join President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2010 White House Easter Egg Roll to help kids learn the value of good health during the 2010 season. “Anyway we can give back and make the community better for the kids.” Alexander said.

To learn more about Smart Guy Lorenzo Alexander and The ACES Foundation’s upcoming events, like Lorenzo Alexander Foundation on Facebook, follow him on twitter at onemangang@twitter, or go to the foundation website at

A Focused 'Smart Guy',

Monday, June 6, 2011

Knowing Your Name--The Starting Point for Greatness

Marcellus Wiley, ESPN analyst, former NFL player and co-host of the Max and Marcellus radio show on ESPN radio, has accumulated a lot of titles, names, accolades, and distinctions in his young life.  Marcellus can proudly claim the  titles, Valedictorian, All-Conference, National Type Writing Champion, First-team All American, All Ivy League, NFL Pro Bowler, Ivy League Graduate, All Pro Defensive End, Business Owner, Sarah Brady Advocate Award Winner, and Member of the National Honor Society.  All incredible accomplishments, none of which he believes he could have obtained if he had not learned what he considers one of the most important lessons of his life: learning his name.  Marcellus' journey is far from over, but he believes that young people, parents, educators and coaches alike, can change the way young people see themselves, their futures and the challenges they face if we examine and challenge our perspectives and make a child's name the touchstone of their world...

I’m from a humble background, my first thoughts about future and potential came from looking around and seeing so much unrecognized talent.  It seemed that nobody was who they wanted to be, people were going to jobs they didn’t want, but had to take because of limited options.   I remember thinking at 6 years old that I needed to do something to help my family. The thought, the dream, wasn’t materialistic it was more about levels of fulfillment and happiness. The unrealized talent and unfulfilled dreams that I observed in my social circles created a lot of unhappy people.  I started saying to myself, 'how can I not be one of those people at 40 doing what they don’t want to do?'  With my parents' guidance, I stuck to the cliches-- I showed up on time, I worked hard, I never gave up. I was one of those kids who never got caught up in athletics like other people did because  I knew at a young age that it was a short lived thing.  So the whole time I was growing up, I wasn’t thinking about riches, I was thinking about potential and opportunities. I wanted to have as many opportunities as possible when I was an adult so that I would not have unrealized talent.  Preparing yourself and creating choices in life is the equivalent to being in great shape for football, it allows you to be ready when people come to tackle you, you can recognize the challenge, you can make great moves and you can be successful.  
I knew I didn’t want to waste the eight hours a day I spent in school, I had to be there, so I decided to make the best of it.  I was often the class clown but I was always a great student. My mom was colorful, full of personality, smart—but she gave up her limitless opportunities when she had my sister at 17 and me at 19, in order to raise us.  My dad is quiet and stands on his principals, period.  He is a believer in what’s right is right and what is wrong is wrong.  He always advised us to stick to the script and do the right thing.  It was a blessing to have two parents in my home, it did wonders for my self-esteem and my outlook on life.  Every year my self-confidence and outlook on life would build and grow into something bigger under the careful watch of my parents.
The first and most important question I ever answered was about identity.  One of the biggest challenges that young people face is deciding what they want to do and who they want to be.  If you can't figure that out, you are so vulnerable to the world.   We’ve got to instill an identity in a child, by letting them know what their name is.  One of my teachers and my grandmother both challenged me to do this exercise, to learn my name.  They told me to write down my name, and then think of three things that you are and write those down beneath your name. I wrote down Marcellus, smart, athletic, nice & funny.  They told me that was my name, my identity. They told me whenever someone calls you by your name you respond and engage with them. But whenever anyone called you outside of your name, you ignore them.  So when local drug dealers were acting like I was soft and a punk for not participating, I looked at my list and I didn’t see those words, so I didn’t own them. If someone assumed or treated me as if I were stupid, I looked on the list and didn't see that word, that identity, so I refused to own it as well.  
If kids internalize the idea that whoever I am, that’s who I’m going to be; that I can decide who I am and not let other's change my view of myself.  Tell the kids to think about themselves and put themselves in the right position and by doing that you accrue circumstances and people that can help you on your journey.  Sometimes I didn’t want to go to practice just like my friends, but I knew it was part of my path because I was smart and missing practice was dumb, so I went to practice in order to be the Marcellus that I said I was going to be. 

I look back now at where I grew up, my apartment, my elementary school, we were poorer than I thought.  I just didn’t know any better as a child.  I couldn't use my circumstances as a crutch because I had great people around me and I payed attention to the great  people and not the small apartment or mean streets.  There are good people everywhere, even if it’s a bad environment, there are other people there with positive missions and plans.  There were always teachers available to help me.
I was both a nerd and an athlete from the beginning.  But I readily admit that I started to feel better about myself at an earlier age as an athlete than I did as a student.  In school, you were told that it was going to be a long path, which is true, but hard for a young person to process and become self-driven.  But you could figure out who was the best in sports right away.  Who is the smartest at any given point in school? We don’t know.  Who’s the fastest? We can go outside right now on the playground and figure that out.  In the classroom you are told to invest in yourself and one day it will all blossom and flourish and bear fruit.  I did academic competitions throughout high school, but every single weekend I would get medals, trophies, my name in the paper, all for playing football and running track.  You don't get that reinforcement in the classroom, and then we wonder why millions of kids see sports as the way to go! 
I go to little league games and events and it is clear that kids learn what they see, not what they hear.  They see their parents wake up two hours before the game to pack lunches and put on team colors and pin their picture on their chest. They see you drive far away to cheer for them running up and down a field or court.  They gladly go to Diary Queen or pizza to celebrate their victory or console a loss. But they also see that you don’t come to parent/teacher conferences with that same enthusiasm or preparation or maybe not at all.  They see that you don't volunteer at the school or drive carpool for the spelling bee. The dynamic between the two cultures, sports and education, shows the level of importance placed on each one, and our kids are hearing us loud and clear.  Some of these parents are just too young, lets keep it real.  And other parents are distracted by the vision of their child making millions at age 20 verses student loans and Phd’s that will all pay off at age 40 years. That gamble that parents are taking is why many kids don’t care about school work and focus on sports.  And its up to us as adults, coaches, teachers, role models and parents to shift that message.
I always encourage young people to work on multiple things, be a great athlete and a great student.  I tell them, if you have something in both hands, a football in one and a book in the other, when you bring them together you can really make some noise. But if you only have something in one hand, no matter how hard you wave that around, you can’t make too much noise.  We, the grown ups, have to market school the way we market sports. We need to make school cool, we need someone who represents education to have some swagger. 
Young people, your environment is asking you a question, athlete or scholar?  Without balance, you are on a one lane road. It's unfortunate because you can be well rounded.  Coolness is true ownership. You can make anything cool if you believe it and make it cool.  You’ve got to own your stuff.  If it's your car and it's missing rims, so what, it's yours, own it!  I had a car in college with no front end and a radio with constant static, but I owned it.  
There are so many lessons I could share with young people, but here are a few key ones.  I lost the school spelling bee in elementary school for not capitalizing the word ‘Queen’.  I was furious at the time, but it taught me afterwards to pay attention to details.  Paying attention to details meant that I made a decision that nothing would get by me again.  In middle school, I didn’t like to do homework, but I loved the Transformers cartoon.  One day I made up a trick for myself. My time was limited because of practices, so I told myself that I couldn’t watch the  Transformers until I had done at least 30 minutes of homework.  I stuck to that script, therefore I learned the work habit of studying.  At Columbia University in New York City and I learned that perception is reality.  I was one dimensional when it came to respecting and collaborating with others, and I was exposed to so many different types of people, different styles, and thoughts in college.  I learned that there are so many ways to the top of the mountain.  We’ve all got different terrains and different elements, different struggles and challenges, but all roads can lead to the mountaintop.
I think being a 'Smart Guy' goes beyond book smarts.  It's not the most difficult thing to learn the material and regurgitate it for the test on Friday.  A true 'Smart Guy' knows about life smarts. I've fallen down many times.  People try so hard not to fall down, but the key is to learn how to get up.  Being smart is about getting up over and over again. A coach once told me that more teams lose games for theirselfs than their oponents accutaly beat them.  Other people don't take your success away, most of the time you lose it by not getting back up off the ground. Those reminders are so critical to someone who is trying to become successful.   Never get psyched out in life, be your own first and biggest cheerleader as soon as they say 'go' and never stop until you've accomplished your goals.
The first thing I want young people who are reading this to remember is you’ve got to stay in the race. Never, ever stop, that is rule number one.  And whatever you want to be, fake it to you make it.  Once you have your name, that identity, you will know what the right things and the wrong things are for you, and you can apply yourself more to the right things.  Take it day by day, let life add it up, and focus on doing what you need to do and doing the most you can every day. 

I wish for all that you choose to make your dreams a reality.   

Dat Dude
Marcellus Wiley

You can learn more about Marcellus' popular radio talk show, Max and Marcellus, at ESPN Radio Max & Marcellus Show 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Changing Cultures: Eugene's Journey

Eugene's life journey has taken him from the small US Virgin Islands in the middle of the Caribbean to the fast moving streets of New York and then across the country to the San Francisco Bay Area.  During this journey he endured his parents divorce, the death of his father and becoming a young, single father--all of which provided him with pivotal moments and turning points, but none of which stopped him from becoming the man he was determined to be.  Now, a proud and accomplished husband, father, coach and Chief Financial Officer for San Francisco's District Attorney's Office, Eugene reflects on his journey and shares with us what he believes makes someone a Smart Guy...

I grew up in St. Croix, born in a middle class family, the youngest of four children.  My mother was a college educated primary school teacher and my father was educated in the military and then rose through the ranks for the US Department of Customs.  When I was in the 5th grade my parents got divorced and I spent the rest of my childhood going back and forth between them in St. Croix and St. Thomas.  I am the product of Catholic education with the exception of the time spent in Florida as a child.  I was always pretty engaged in school as I was always in competition with my older sisters (they weren’t competing with me though) for who got the best grades.  Most of the teachers I encountered all knew my sisters and the high standards they set before me.  I took that as a challenge to do no less than they did. My two sisters were both successful in high school and went on to college. My brother ended up on a different path, he didn’t graduate from high school and ended up spending time in the criminal justice system.  

Coping with my parents divorce was the first significant obstacle I remember facing.  During this transition, I had to move to Florida for a while which was a totally different culture than I had ever experienced living in the islands.  It ended up being a good early learning experience for dealing with others and different cultures, one I've had to call on countless times in my journey.  The second life changing moment that stands out for me was losing my father at the age of 17.  He was diagnosed with cancer when I was in the 9th grade and he died right before my senior year of High School.  That loss forced me to become very independent and self reliant in an instant and I felt a major hole in my life as a boy without a father. 

I attended New York University for Undergrad and Graduate school.  For my undergraduate studies I attended Gallatin School of Individualized study where I was able to create my own major which was a combination of psychology and sociology with an emphasis on youth development.  At the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, I concentrated on public finance and non-profit management.  I attended NYU mainly because of the school’s reputation.   I found the school’s academic rigor to be pretty challenging and opened my views quite significantly.  

Part of my decision to attend college was to seek a totally different experience than what I was used to in the Virgin Islands.  Interestingly enough, my experiences in New York became more fulfilling as I became more involved in exploring my cultural background and experiencing West Indian/Caribbean life in New York.  While in college at NYU, I became a father at the age of 21.  So in addition to being forced to be independent and self reliant because of the loss of my father, I now had someone else depending on me for their survival.  Yet instead of giving up, falling down or dismissing my responsibilities, I became more driven and focused.  I managed to finish my BA and MPA by age 26, all while supporting myself and maintaining a significant role in my daughter’s life.   

Eugene and his daughter at her HS graduation
When my father passed away, there were two people who took a chance on me and it has paid dividends ever since.  My sister Monique knew that I had dabbled in photography as a youngster and advocated for me to become the staff photographer for the newspaper where she was the editor when I was 16.  A few months into working at that job I was offered another job to assist with running a new photo shop that had opened.  My sister Monique and Kim (the owner of the photo shop) both took a chance on me because of something they each saw in me.  My peers at this age were bagging groceries, working for some other government run employment program or selling drugs.  I had the opportunity to do something I loved that had meaning and purpose to me.  Those early opportunities showed me the value of work, what it meant to have a meaningful career, and most importantly what it meant for someone to believe in you and offer a helping hand.  As a result, I have pledged to always give back to the community to ensure that others who want to get ahead and who have the potential can realize their potential.

My role model and mentors are all members of my family.  I never needed to look beyond them for inspiration or examples of success.  My sisters, aunts, mother and father were all giants to me in whatever they chose to do.  They all rose to positions of prominence in their respective fields while raising families and remaining grounded. 

When I left St. Croix for college, I wanted to be a photographer.  I still love photography but I chose a different career path.  Currently, I am the Chief Financial and Administrative Officer for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.  In this role I am responsible for the overall management and operations for an office of 250 plus personnel.  This involves developing, planning, monitoring and reconciling a budget of $41 million dollars annually.  It also involves working with the District Attorney in implementing policies that affect the office’s ability to seek justice on behalf of the citizens of the county of San Francisco.  I have also been the Chief Financial Officer for the San Francisco Sheriff Department and the Mayor's Office.  In my job I have to be very analytical on a day to day basis.  In order to be successful, I have to listen, analyze and develop a course of action to resolve the issues. 

for more information about the Rebels program,
 go to
 One of the ways I give back and stay involved in my community is through coaching.  I’ve coached girls AAU basketball for the last 11 years in the Bay Area, working with the Rebels program and helping these young athletes reaching statewide prominence and national recognition. We like to call ourselves a “mom and pop shop” and are proud of the family atmosphere that we've created and maintained while simultaneously creating a culture of excellence and success. 

To me, a 'smart guy' is someone who can overcome his/her circumstances to take the necessary steps to become the person that they want to become.  A smart guy isn’t necessarily someone with all the money or prestige; a 'smart guy' is someone who is able to achieve success as they define it while maintaining their character and integrity.  I think what makes me a 'smart guy' is the fact that I’m from a little island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea and have successfully navigated the City of New York, then moved across the country to San Francisco and now have worked for the first African American Mayor in the City of San Francisco, the first woman, African/Indian American District Attorney, and the first Cuban American District Attorney in California-- all while being a good father and husband and continuing to be connected to the community and serve on a daily basis. 

My advice to young people is to always challenge themselves.  Put themselves in situations where they aren’t always comfortable.  Being comfortable often leads to complacency and being stagnant.  In addition, people put limitations on themselves and say they can’t do this or that, or proclaim something to not be their thing, without even attempting to do it.  If they keep the mindset of always challenging themselves they will find themselves among others who are looking for the same things out of life.  

A 'Smart Guy' from the Islands,

*Author's Note: last year, at the age of 43, Eugene's brother graduated from college.  Getting up after you fall down, a 'smart guy' trait to be proud of...

Being Different--Josh Johnson's Smart Guy Story

Growing up in West Oakland, CA presents a lot of opportunity for young African American males. Opportunities such as--attachment to gangs and the violence associated with it, pimping and pandering, involvement with drugs, or meeting and building a relationship with law officials.  We are not talking about a buddy/buddy type relationship; it is more like the Duke Boys vs. Boss Hog and Roscoe P. Coltrane relationship.  So what can you do if you don’t want to continue in this cycle? Well for Smart Guy Josh Johnson, he made the conscious decision to devote and focuse his time and energy to other avenues. He did not let the pressure from his peers or his environments deter what he wanted to do with his life. He acted on some of the less known opportunities that Oakland had to offer but rarely gets recognition for providing. Josh  concentrated heavily on his family, school and sports to escape the negativity that surrounded him. As Johnson grew up he knew that he did not want to be like everyone else, he wanted to be different. He not only wanted to be a success on the football field, basketball court or track but he also wanted to succeed in the classroom and in life.

“I have always wanted to be a well-rounded person, to be a successful athlete as well as a successful student; I wanted to create different avenues for myself.” Johnson said. “As I was growing up, I would rather go to practice instead of hanging out. I would rather do my school work or stay in the house. Most of that stuff that was out there in the streets really didn’t mean anything. It was just something there for everybody to do but I didn’t want to do that.”  Johnson admits that growing up in the inner city can present a lot of barriers and challenges, simply because in that environment bad things that happens on a somewhat daily basis. But Josh also recognized that there were positive things that can come out of those situations as well.  “You can learn a lot of good values,” Johnson continued. “When you come from humble beginning you have many struggles. But when you struggle you get to find out more about the character of the people around you and also about yourself. You develop the will to fight, a trait that will carry you through a lot of other challenges on the road to becoming an adult.”

Many people have struggled with separation, the ability to be able to separate themselves from what they are used to and friends that they are used to being with who may not be on a positive path. Those things can truly affect your life in a negative way. Josh advises youth that may be struggling with this separation to have courage. If the people who you call your friends see the change in you then, it could help them to make a change in themselves as well. Don’t be afraid to be a leader; don’t be afraid to be the first one to break out of the norm. “One of the biggest challenges that you will face is being able to separate yourself from the negative things.” Johnson said. “The negative things are out there and they are easy to do. That is why everyone is doing it, because it is so easy. Not everyone wants to get involved with the harder things, due to all the work that has to be put in to becoming successful at it. That is just the world that we live in. I encourage young people to stay on the right path, that Smart Guy path. It is the right thing to do although it may be more difficult than the negative things. Look beyond the little things that you can get with the fast money because that will not last long. From my experiences the harder that I worked at something, the more I was able to benefit from it. You have to create that mentality for yourself because that winning/ hard working mentality will get you a long way.”

Josh’s mom Rosemary was a very big influence on his life and the decisions that he made. Rosemary was a single mother with four children who worked hard to provide for her family and limit some of the struggles that families had. “My mother did a great job with us,” Johnson said. “As a single parent with four children, she did everything she could to make sure we didn’t have to struggle. That let me know that there was no excuse for me not to do the right thing.”As for the much needed male guidance that young males search for, Johnson found it in his uncles and coaches he had while playing youth and in high school sports.  “My uncles were like a father figures for me,” Johnson recalled. “He showed me a lot of things from a male’s perspective. My high school coach did the same for me in the athletic realm. He did a lot for my teammates and I. I was able to learn a lot from him.”

Johnson views himself as a Smart Guy for overcoming the temptations that the streets of Oakland presented him. Josh is a graduate of Oakland Tech High School where he earned first team All City honors at quarterback and led his team to the Oakland Athletic League Championship. He is two classes away from graduating from the University of San Diego with a Bachelor degree in Mass Communications and where he was a four time All Conference (Pioneer Football League) (2004-07), twice earning PFL Offensive Player of the Year (2005-06), he was a four time I-AA All American (2004-07), and was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award-given to the best player in division I-AA football (2007). Johnson is currently the backup quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a co-founder of Fam 1st Family Foundation with cousin Marshawn Lynch.
Johnson and Lynch created this 501c3 non-profit foundation to give back to the young kids of Oakland. For the past four years the guys has hosted a free football camp for kids ages 6-18, at their alma mater Oakland Tech. To expand the Fam 1st Family Foundation they incorporated the first annual Family 1st bowling night last fall and have a family oriented weekend planned from July 8-9, 2011. The festivities will start Friday night July 8 from 6-9:00pm with the 1st Family bowling and continue Saturday, July 9, with their annual football camp. The foundation also sponsors turkey drives during Thanksgiving and toy drives during Christmas. One of the major goals for the foundation is developing a youth center for the kids, a project that is in the planning stages now.

“We are excited to get this underway for the youths of Oakland.” Johnson said. “We are all about helping the inner city kids and showing them that there is more to life than what they see in the streets that they are growing up in. The opportunity is there for everybody, you just have to work hard for it, but trust me you will appreciate all that hard work you put into yourself and your future when you get older, because you will learn so much about the world."

A Family Smart Guy,

To find out more about Josh Johnson go to . For more information regarding the  Fam 1st Family Foundations contact Joanna Lopez at

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Entering the Hall of Fame--Eddie Pope's Story

Eddie has traveled an exciting journey with soccer that has taken him across the world.  Hear his incredible story and what makes him a ‘Smart Guy’…

When I was six I really wanted to play football. But they didn’t have football for my age group and I wanted to do something, so I ended up trying soccer and didn’t return to football until high school. No one played soccer in my community in North Carolina.  At the time, I lived in all black neighborhood and none of the other kids played soccer—it was just basketball and baseball. They didn’t even offer soccer in my community and I had to sign up for soccer in another neighborhood.  I was usually the only black kid playing soccer as I went through youth soccer.  I learned to live in two different worlds, the soccer world and my neighborhood/home world.  In addition to the soccer teams I played on, I continued to played basketball and baseball with my peers in the neighborhood. In high school I played baseball, soccer and football.  I was All-State in all three sports and didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, I loved all three.  Baseball ended up being the first sport I dropped.  After high school graduation, I went to UNC Chapel Hill on a football scholarship as a kicker.  Once I was there I walked on to the soccer team and ended up with a shared scholarship, which freed up scholarship money for both programs. 
I did well academically.  My parents weren’t athletes and my mother was a teacher, so their focus was always academics.  My mother never played around when it came to grades and my responsibilities as a student.    When I was applying to colleges, recruiters complimented me on my grades, noting that my academic success allowed me a wide choice of schools and increased my attractiveness for colleges and their athletic programs.  I was an Academic All-American several times in college, and even at that level, I knew the expectations of me academically and strived to be a good student as well as a good athlete.
The deciding moment in my sports career was not what I expected. Both teams wanted me to specialized and focus on one sport, but I really enjoyed both and was content to work hard and play football and soccer throughout college.  My freshman year I was warming up for annual Blue/White game in football and looked down and noticed my leg was five times its normal size. Earlier that week in soccer practice I made a tackle and cut my leg.  It turned out that cut got infected and I spent the next two weeks in the hospital and narrowly avoided a leg amputation.  Afterwards, I had to redshirt football that year but recovered in time to play soccer freshman year.  That summer it was time to try out for the Olympic soccer team. The football coach said I couldn’t miss summer workouts if I wanted to be the kicker in the fall, which I would have to do to try out for Olympic soccer team.  After talking to family and friends, I chose the once in a lifetime opportunity of trying out for the Olympic soccer team. My football coach told me it was a big mistake, that if I stuck with football I could be playing in NFL in a few short years. I made that 1996 Olympic soccer team where we went 1-1-1.
I think one of the biggest challenges for any young person is what your peers are doing.  Back then there weren’t a ton of training opportunities for aspiring athletes like there are today, so a lot of your training and conditioning was stuff you had to do on your own. My buddies in my neighborhood always wanted to hang out.  But my mother constantly reinforced for me that I had to be better than everyone else if I wanted to make these travel/elite teams, so good that the teams would have no choice but to pick me.  So I learned to find the balance.  If my buddies wanted to shoot hoops, I told them I would play with them if they played soccer or did conditioning with me. 
When I was growing up, there was no soccer on TV to look at or pattern yourself after, so I didn’t have athlete role models. My parents were my role models. They were diligent and strict and they helped keep me in line.  And even now my role models are still my parents.  They were always at my games and my practices. My mother was the first one to school with any challenges, advocating for me and promoting success. 
My most important professional accomplishment has to be playing in the World Cups because that is the highest level of achievement for our sport.  As a competitive athlete, the goal is always to reach the top level and challenge yourself to perform well with the best of the best.
My most important personal accomplishment is graduating from college. It is important for me to have that to show my kids, proof that I practiced what I preach to them about academics.  I wanted to be able to say that education was important and back it up.  I want them to learn from my success and not from my mistakes.
The Eddie Pope Foundation teaches the virtues of spirit, community, and education to youths in underserved areas through the sport of soccer.  I have always believed that soccer has power. The biggest thing to me is that soccer gives kids the ability to travel the world and experience different cultures and places.  The first time I left the country was for soccer when I was fifteen years old. I went to Scandinavia, and I’m pretty sure I would not have been able to do that without soccer. For those who play soccer competitively, by the time you are done with college, you are so well-traveled. That’s irreplaceable. The cultural diversity, the people you meet along the way, trips to Africa, Asia, Europe, etc. You can’t find that at such a young age in any other sport. 
I started the Eddie Pope Foundation because I wanted to be able to give other young people soccer.  I was fortunate to find soccer, even in the random fashion in which I did.  .  I thought everyone should have the opportunity to play soccer for the other tools it brought to the table--education, health, afterschool activities, and a safe place.  It was not cool to be smart in the black community when I was going through school, it was okay to fail academically. But as a soccer player and within my soccer community, I was complimented and encouraged to be smart.  In the neighborhood, people often made fun of my sister because she was smart, they called her dictionary as an insult.
Additionally, I thought everyone should have access to soccer, not just one community.  Although worldwide soccer is the sport of the poor, in America, soccer is a wealthy sport.  In America, we organize soccer, and the minute something gets organized, it gets expensive.  Fifteen hundred dollars a season for travel/comp soccer, plus your equipment and tournament fees, thousands of dollars on a single soccer season.  Worldwide people play on the streets and get discovered and become professional soccer players, not here. I wanted kids here to have access to the sport so that they are involved in something and not hanging out in the street doing nothing.  To stay in the Eddie Pope Foundation program participants have to do well in school.  We are proud to say that we haven’t had one teen pregnancy amongst our participants in 12 years. Program participants are busy in those critical after-school hours, have good self-esteem, and are focused on specific goals. Kids are given prizes for academic accomplishments, not athletic accomplishments. Some kids in the program are becoming bilingual through their multicultural friendships developed with program peers from different communities, peers they may have never encountered otherwise. 
For me, being a ‘Smart Guy’ was about choices I made at a young age.  The decisions I made as a young man were smart decisions, those decisions put me in the positions I am today.  I spend thousands of hours in my backyard kicking a soccer ball to develop my skills.  Kids think they don’t have to make smart decisions until they are older but that’s not true.  If you are not making smart decisions, you could very well be making bad/detrimental decisions. I made smart decisions when I was younger. The more we can help kids learn to make good decisions at young ages, the better.
I am excited about my Hall of Fame nomination.  There weren’t a lot of African Americans in the Hall of Fame, there will be three of us now.  Growing up, soccer was considered a ‘white boy’ sport. People were constantly asking me “why are you playing soccer?” There was constant judgment and criticism of me and my role as a soccer player.  I am proud that I can be a role model for kids growing up who look like me and are told they can’t do something.  When I introduce soccer to the young men in my program I am prepared for this pre-judgment.  I have posters and pictures and tell them about the history of soccer in Africa.  They are so proud after they learn about their history in soccer.  They have confidence in knowing they are not the only one.  Soon kids in inner city communities will see us being inducted and think that they can do it too--if you see it, then you can believe it.  Being able to provide that, to open that door, is so important to me and makes me proud.
A Hall of Fame 'Smart Guy',

Eddie Pope, a three time World Cup player, three time MLS Champion, with ten MLS All-Star team selections, and a role on the US Olympic soccer player was recently named to the USA Soccer Hall of Fame.  Eddie has had an amazing soccer career as a player and continues to be involved with soccer in his position as MLS Director of Player relations and as the leader of the Eddie Pope Foundation.