Smith to be inducted into FCA Hall of Champions
Church isn't about a building for Starkville native Ken Smith.
It's Smith's association with people and introducing them, in particular athletes, to Jesus Christ which has motivated him over the years.
That desire for service led Smith to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
"It was about being out in the world and athletics was a great way for me to get out in the world and speak to kids," Smith said. "They tell me that I've spoken to more summer camps for FCA than anybody ever has and I've done fundraising banquets for them for years and years."
Smith's devotion to the organization that he calls "the love of my life" since 1981 has been recognized as he joins four other individuals to be inducted into the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Hall of Champions.
The FCA, the world's largest sports ministry, established its Hall of Champions in 1991 to honor individuals who have demonstrated a consistent commitment to Jesus Christ. They are considered volunteer "All-Stars" who have given above and beyond the call of duty and have upheld the Four Core Values of FCA which are integrity, serving, teamwork and excellence.
The recipients are determined each year by an FCA Selection Committee following a nomination process that includes staff, volunteers, athletes and the organization's Board of Trustees.
Smith joins Donn Moomaw, former UCLA football player and College Hall of Fame inductee, Jim Scoggins, a high school football coach and athletic director, and Sue Semrau, Florida State University head women's basketball coach as the Class of 2010.
When he found out about the honor, Smith was speechless.
"When Fisher DeBerry, who was at the Air Force Academy and is a good friend of mine, went in last year, I was so excited for him," Smith said. "I was really stunned candidly and didn't know what to say. I was breathless to say the least."
Smith said his character was molded early in his life by coaches Jim Craig and Jack Nix at Starkville High School. He played and coached under the two men.
When it came time to become involved with FCA, Smith said it was a natural move to make because of the things he learned from Craig and Nix.
"I have always been around athletics in some capacity," Smith said.
He coached high school football five years prior to attending seminary, through seminary and two years after seminary.
When Smith accepted his first pastorate in Miami, he was defensive coordinator at a private school there.
Smith has served as football team chaplain at Florida State and South Carolina. It was during his time in the Southeastern Conference with the Gamecocks that he got to know former Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill.
"When Keffer McGee died, I came over and did some work with Mississippi State at that time," Smith said. "When (coach) Brad (Scott) got fired (at South Carolina), coach Sherrill contacted me and asked me if I wanted to come back (to MSU). I couldn't do it until the next year and I went to the bowl game with them when they played the Snow Bowl (Independence Bowl) against Texas A&M and agreed to work with him for a year as Director of Player Personnel."
Smith's journey includes doing chapels with the Indianapolis Colts and several college teams over the years, including Vanderbilt and Carson-Newman College.
"I've done a lot of work at Carson-Newman, which is a Division II school, because my son actually played football there," Smith said. "I've gone to Carson-Newman every year for 18 years to speak at their coaches clinic."
Smith proclaims himself to be a Yellowjacket at heart and is about to return to Starkville for his 50th class reunion.
Each inductee in the FCA's Hall of Champions will be honored with a plaque bearing a sculpture of their likeness that will remain in the Hall of Champions in FCA's National Support Center in Kansas City. A replica will be presented to the honoree at an appropriate special event sometime this year.
Smith said there's only two places he'd consider accepting his plaque.
"I told them it's either going to be Tallahassee (Fla.) or Starkville because I worked for coach Bowden all those years, but Starkville is where I first learned about character," Smith said. "When I was in high school, I didn't know I'd go into coaching either so it's been an interesting journey."