FAU lineman gets support from Seminole Tribe

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

BOCA RATON When Florida Atlantic plays at home, junior offensive lineman Jarrid Smith doesn't know where all the members of the Seminole Tribe who are there cheering for him are sitting, but he knows they are there.

Smith, a member of the Seminole Tribe, is the reason dozens make the long trips from various reservations in South Florida to support one of their own.

There are older Seminoles who know Smith as the grandson of former Tribal President Fred Smith, but Smith's following also includes kids, who may want to grow up in Smith's footsteps as an American Indian who plays football.

"People say I'm a role model, but I've never really thought of myself like that," said Smith, who played for Okeechobee High School while he lived at the Seminole Tribe Reservation in Brighton. "I guess maybe some good does come out of me playing."

Smith gets the most enjoyment when he is helping younger Seminoles. He has been a speaker for youth teams that are forming in some of the reservations.

And this summer, Smith was a guest instructor and coach for the Jim Thorpe Indian All-Star Football Classic, a weeklong football clinic and game held in Oklahoma each year.

"That was a great experience," Smith said. "There were kids from all over the country, and it was amazing how different they were but how similar we all are because we are Native American."

It was part of a busy summer for Smith, who also played basketball in the Indigenous Games, a sports and cultural festival for Aboriginal people in North America that was held in Denver.

Basketball is more popular on the reservations than football because it is easier to form a team with small numbers, and Smith is believed to be one of a handful of American Indians playing I-A college football.

Smith said he is not offended by teams with "Indians" as their nicknames such as Arkansas State, FAU's opponent this week.

"I never really had a problem with it," Smith said. "Names like Seminoles and Indians aren't offensive to me. I don't really like teams called the Redskins, so I can see where the NCAA is coming from, especially when we are a society based on equality. I can see where they wouldn't want names like that around."

FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger, who has spoken before the Seminole Tribe's council on Smith's value to the team, believes Smith is a natural leader.

"He's very proud of his heritage and the makeup of the tribe," Schnellenberger said. "He's a serious minded person and has demonstrated maturity and is a pillar of the offensive line."

Smith is somewhat reserved, but he forms strong bonds with his teammates.

"He's quiet, but he says just enough," said offensive lineman Antes Perkins, who has gotten to know Smith well.

Perkins visited the Brighton reservation with Smith this summer and enjoyed his visit with one of the tribe's favorite sons.

"He showed me around, and it was real cool," Perkins said. "There is a lot of unity out there. They are all about helping each other. Everybody knew Jarrid, and he's very well-respected there."

Although Smith doesn't say much, he makes his words count, said his mother, Camellia Osceola.

"He doesn't say a lot, but when he does say something it's meaningful," Osceola said.