Former Texan stresses importance of reading to local students

An educational program founded by a former professional athlete allows students to read with the pros.

Students at one Houston ISD school are excited to read this National Literacy Month.

That’s because they’re reading with the pros, thanks to a unique program founded by a former Houston Texan.

Wade Smith, a 12-year NFL veteran, is the founder of Reading With the Pros.

“You have to put the time in in the classroom in order to do everything else in life,” Smith told a group of students at Blackshear Elementary on Friday. “You have to always remember that.”

At schools across the city, Smith and his reading pros—which includes Texans players, police officers, radio DJs and even myself—are emphasizing the importance of getting an education and reading above all else.

“I figured I’d give back in a way in something I truly enjoy doing myself,” Smith said. “I know that there are kids who struggle with reading. I know that there are kids who have problems with reading.”

Not only does he love to read, but he puts the pen to paper and writes them, too.

Smith wrote “Smitty Hits the Playbooks,” a colorful children’s book about himself as a boy. Smith has written two books and a third is in the works. Proceeds from the book go toward scholarships within Smith’s foundation.

“Third, fourth grade, Smitty with thick glasses and a baby fro. I was a really, really skinny kid,” Smith said.

He tells the story of how he fell in love with football, but almost risked it all when he seriously started slacking in school.

“It really is cool to go to these schools and actually read my own book. And the kids are like, ‘Wow, you wrote that book?’” Smith said.

With his newfound career, does Smith ever miss the NFL?

“For the most part I’m enjoying being what I am now—being able to give back to kids in the community, not weighing 315 pounds and knees hurting every day and, you know, having to go through that grind,” he said.

After all, he’s still scoring big with fans just getting to know him and his new playbook.

Note: A fundraiser, Bedtime Stories, is planned for Sept. 30. I’ll be hosting it along with Seth Payne and guest Whitney Mercilus.


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