Get your hankies out, folks, it’s time for a couple of touching human-interest stories from this week’s Super Bowl. The Steelers and Cardinals aren’t just going head-to-head on the field this week, they’re also matching up to see which teammate named Smith has endured the most recent terrible hearbreak.
In Arizona’s corner, there’s fullback Terrelle Smith, whose mother raised not only he and his five siblings but also as many as 22 other foster children at the same time. Smith’s selfless mom died last month after a long battle with breast cancer, just before getting to see her kid play in the Super Bowl. In Pittsburgh’s corner, there’s defensive end Aaron Smith, whose five-year-old son is battling leukemia as we speak.
Prepare for your heartsrings to be pulled after the jump.
FANHOUSE’s Michael David Smith (of course) brings us both stories, presumably in the interest of equal coverage for both teams in terms of personal devastation.
Terrelle talked about his mother in glowing terms, and touched on what he learned from her willingness to be there for so many kids (22? Really?):
Smith says that his mom, Sheryll Smith, saw foster parenting as the way to teach her six biological children that they should be thankful for what they have and willing to give to those who have less.
“I never really understood why my mother did it when I was growing up,” Smith said. “As I got older, I realized that there are a lot of people on this earth that are less fortunate. For my mom to have open arms and nurture children that weren’t even hers was a great experience. They were from all over the country. It was a tremendous experience. It was a different upbringing, but it was very good for me.”
Terrelle then spoke about his mother’s final months and how she is still with him:
Sheryll Smith told Terrelle in April that she had a dream that he was going to play in the Pro Bowl or the Super Bowl. But she didn’t live to see her dream come true: Sheryll died last month after a long battle with breast cancer.
“It would be great if she could be here now and see all of this. I know she is looking down on me, but it would be great if she was here.”
“I still have voice-mail messages that she left me on my phone,” Smith said. “When I am having a rough day I listen to them. They get me through the day.”
And while the loss of your mother in what is perhaps your proudest moment is tough to handle, think about having to play the Super Bowl not knowing if your young son is going to be around to relish it. The Steelers’ Aaron Smith found out in October that his son, Elijah, had leukemia:
Parents often fear the worst when their children are sick, but the news Smith got was even worse than he could have imagined, because he had never heard of acute lymphoblastic leukemia until he was told that Elijah had it.
“We were in the emergency room that night and the doctor said that we had to see an oncologist,” Smith said. “I didn’t understand why we were seeing an oncologist and he came in and he asked us, ‘How much do you know about leukemia?’”
Aaron Smith has had to concentrate on helping his team while Elijah has gone through chemotherapy. In a happier ending than Terrelle Smith’s story, Elijah is strong enough that he’s traveling to Tampa to watch his dad play in the game. His prognosis is good, as most children with the disease are able to live healthy lives after completing treatment.