Dropped pass. Wide Left. Heartbreak.
Last season was the hardest ending to endure. Lee Evans dropped the would-have-been winning touchdown. Billy Cundiff pushed his kick wide left. An unfathomable way to call a conclusion to the year.
The bitter sting of defeat still aches in the hearts of every Ravens fan from that last second playoff loss in New England a year ago. It was every fans nightmare come to life. To come so close, yet be so far away.
But those feelings of anguish were tedious to Torrey Smith Monday morning. The star Baltimore Raven wideout received news his younger brother, 19 year old Tevin Chris Jones, lost his life in a motorcycle accident.
Stop. Imagine the heartbreak. I don’t think any of us could, unless you have encountered a similar circumstance.
Torrey Smith essentially was the father figure to all six of his younger siblings by the time he was seven. As the big brother, he held the home together in the absence of his biological father. It was Torrey that changed the diapers, and helped feed his siblings, when his mother was a struggling victim of domestic abuse. Torrey was the man of the house when mom served a six month jail sentence.
While others would break under this stress, the pressure created a diamond known as Torrey Smith.
This story is the backdrop to a remarkable and unforgettable display of courage. The Ravens let Smith decide whether he’d play in Sunday night’s game. He made his decision just hours before the game.
Smith willed his performance into an impressive display of six receptions, 127 yards and two touchdowns. A visibly emotional Smith was pointing toward the sky after snatching his 25-yard touchdown in the second quarter. He was pointing to his guardian angel. After his second touchdown, Smith knelt in the end zone and said a prayer.
Smith commented that he gained strength from being with his second family: his teammates. The guys understood his emotions, as this event is painfully familiar to All-Pro safety Ed Reed. As most Raven fans should remember, Reed’s younger brother drowned after jumping into the Mississippi River near New Orleans prior to the Ravens’ playoff victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Reed helped Smith gain a sense of understanding. “I just told him that we’re here for him, I’m here for him,” Reed said after the game. “I gave him a psalm. God’s in control and God has a plan bigger than ours. We don’t know our time, none of us.”
Most shocking about Jones’s sudden death was his positive nature. Jeff Smith, Jones’s high school coach at King George High School, said, “Tevin was a happy-go-lucky kid, always smiling, he never had a bad day. He wasn’t a kid to stay out late or get in trouble. He was working and doing well for himself. He was a good athlete, good football player. The kids believed in him, we believed in him.”
Although the Ravens overcame the Patriots in a thrilling victory on a last second field goal, the score does not matter. Unlike the heartbreaker from last year’s playoff game, this game meant more than who won or lost. The circumstances made everyone realize they were a winner for enjoying another day, embracing another opportunity to play or watch the game they loved. Another moment to turn to their loved ones and say with a full heart, “I love you.”
Everything happens for a reason, and it up to the individual to determine whether it is a positive or negative reason. Torrey Smith took a situation that a lesser man would have crumbled, and sparked a reserve of inspiration every human being can appreciate. Tevin Jones is not lost, because through Torrey Smith’s courage and willpower, his memory lives on in each of us.
Rest in Peace, Tevin.