Page 4 of 5   <       >

Through two decades of hardships, Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith and his mother helped raise each other

Standout Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith says his single mother taught him "everything," including how to use a childhood filled with hardships to shape his character and resolve.

When it came to football, Monica didn't believe in Torrey's potential: "I used to always tell him: 'Boy, you running over top of those kids because you ain't got no competition. You wait to we get back here and the brothers are here, I'm going to see what you do then.'

"When he got back here and dominated, I put my hands up. I said, 'You're the man.' "

Torrey began focusing on football. He was a talented quarterback, defensive back and kick returner. He also learned discipline and the importance of details at Stafford High. His coach, Roger Pierce, instructed all players to enter pregame meetings with shined cleats and shoe laces overlapping to the outside. Torrey never missed a lace.

Swope, who had become a mentor, frequently drove him to Virginia Tech games in his 13-year-old maroon van, sometimes at the request of Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster. Virginia also showed interest. But the concern was Torrey's speed after he broke his leg as a junior. Virginia wanted him to run the 40-yard dash again on its campus. Maryland did not make such a request.

Another reason why he chose Maryland was to be close to home. Monica always protected him, sometimes to his chagrin. In his last high school game, Torrey was playing with a considerable limp but he wanted to keep playing, and coaches made no move to take him out. Monica did. She walked onto the field and physically pulled him off. Moved to tears he was so angry, Torrey obeyed.

No one dared challenge Monica.

'Stay strong to keep me strong'

When Torrey walked into Circuit Court in Montross, Va., on Aug. 6, he saw his mom for the first time in six months. She had been locked up at Northern Neck Regional Jail; visiting hours were only on weekdays, when he was in school.

Monica had done so much to get her life on track. She earned her associate of arts computer degree in 2000 and had a six-figure IT job. She says she had not been in a fight in 13 years before Feb. 18, when a family dispute between Monica and daughter-in-law Caprice Smith turned violent. Monica feared she could have been put away for 20 years. She had a past: several arrests, a two-month jail sentence.

After this arrest, Torrey was the stoic one, just as he had been when parenting his siblings years before.

His strength bolstered her spirit.

"Let me tell you something about Torrey," she says. "Torrey is a very strong child. He is not going to let me know that he is down. Because he knows that if I know he is down, I'm just through. So he tries to stay strong to keep me strong. And I love him to death for that."

But it weighed on Torrey. Those closest to him saw it. He didn't feel he could control much in his personal life. Without a job, he couldn't help his siblings financially. During spring practice, when stressed, he confided in Lee Hull, Maryland's wide receivers coach, Friedgen, as well as friend Chanel Williams. He drove home on weekends to help care for siblings. Just like old times, the Microwave King reporting for duty.

<             4        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company