“I had a mother that told me to dream early on,” Smith told a packed ballroom at a downtown Tampa hotel on Monday morning. “She told me to eliminating the word ‘can’t’ from my vocabulary, that I could do anything I wanted to do. I started dreaming early.”
Smith has realized his biggest dreams, most recently when he was named the new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For that he can also thank Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Smith’s mother told him to dream; King helped create a society where he could thrive.
Monday’s hotel gathering – on the occasion of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – was the 34th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Breakfast conducted by the Tampa Organization of Black Affairs (TOBA). Following a long line of distinguished speakers, Smith was a surprise guest. The Buccaneers’ new leader had accepted an invitation from TOBA just last week and was making his first public appearance in the Bay area since taking over the Bucs’ reins.
TOBA happily stages its annual breakfast very early in the morning (6:45 a.m. ), on what is a day off for many, in a very busy week at One Buccaneer Place that includes preparations for the Senior Bowl. Smith did not hesitate to attend the event, however, seeking both to make a connection with the Bay area community and to honor one of America’s most important and influential figures.
“The sacrifices of people like Dr. King put me in a position that I’m in today,” said Smith, who in 2006 joined Tony Dungy as the first black head coaches to lead their teams to the Super Bowl. “It’s only fitting that I was able to be here today. I’ve benefitted so much from what he started. I’m living proof of his words – that we can be judged by the content of our character.”
Smith took the podium last and was greeted with a standing ovation. In addition to sharing his thoughts on Dr. King and the local community, Smith also asked those in attendance to get behind the Buccaneers again, saying the words the crowd wanted to hear:
“We will be relentless in our pursuit of bringing the Super Bowl trophy back to Tampa.”