A Very Emotional Remembrance of the NFL’s Will Smith
It's not every day that we in the business become personally attached to the people we report on; then again, it's not every day that a guy like Will Smith comes along.
Utica Observer Dispatch sports reporter Ron Moshier found himself in that very unfortunate situation on Monday morning during the Keeler in the Morning show, which dedicated most of the morning to the horrific story surrounding the untimely death of Utica's own Will Smith.
Smith, a Utica Proctor High School graduate, was shot and killed on Saturday night following a fender bender on the streets of his NFL hometown, New Orleans. While details continue to trickle out, some of which are probably not flattering to the 34-year-old NFL great, Moshier probably said it best when he confessed, "I only know the Will Smith that I reported on here in Utica."
Over the years, Moshier developed a relationship with Smith; one that in terms of journalistic standards, was "unethical" by his own accord. Who could blame him for developing a friendship with a kid like Will Smith? So many people who knew him both personally and professionally described him as amazingly talented, humble and by all standards, just a decent person.
Moshier said that Smith called him out of the blue one day after winning the Super Bowl championship with the New Orleans Saints. According to the veteran OD reporter, despite the fact that he had no family left in Utica, he wanted to give back by honoring local football players at an annual banquet put on by the OD.
"His ties were with Proctor and his coaches here and as it turned out with me and the Observer Dispatch and he came back because he wanted to," Moshier said. "He said, I want to recognize these players." Recognize he did, by coming back year after year to meet and greet with local players and offering them a piece of professional football fame. Smith would hold summer camps for local players and young kids and he would bring other NFL friends into town that never would have set foot in Utica had it not been for Smith and his appreciation for the area.
"He was about to do it here Thursday night," said Moshier, referring to the fact that Smith was scheduled to appear at the OD's banquet honoring the best local high school football players for the eighth straight year on Thursday. Sadly, the event has been postponed as organizers attempt to gain their composure and figure out how to move forward after Sunday morning's horrific news. It's expected that the annual event will be adjusted to
He said, I want to recognize these players.
honor Smith's legacy both on and off the field. For now, Moshier and the people who knew Smith as a young athlete who grew up to become a college and NFL superstar, need to pause for a period of mourning.
"We don't want it to become a Will Smith eulogy because Will Smith wouldn't want that," Moshier said quoting Smith's high school coach Jerry Fiorini. "He'd want it to be about these kids, that's why he set it up."
The Will Smith described by Moshier is the same person New Orleans newspaper reporter Jonathan Bullington of Nola.com discovered during his investigative reporting following Smith's murder on Saturday night. "It's everything our sports reporters here...all of his former teammates have talked about, people in the community" have described Smith in the same light. Bullington spoke with WIBX's Keeler on Tuesday morning in a conversation that included Moshier, who downplayed his relationship with Smith, even though on Sunday after the news broke, several coaches and parents sent along their condolences because they knew the two were close.
"I don't know if you could call me close to him," said Moshier. "But I was close to what he meant to this area and I was close to what he wanted to do for this area and that's why I respected him."
And as more information comes out from the tragedy that happened on Saturday night, Moshier says it makes him not even want to watch the news.
"All I know is the Will Smith I knew here and he was good for this area and I hope we can remember that forever."
Listen to the emotional interview with Ron Moshier here-
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