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Troy Smith Speaks to Alma Mater

Troy Smith went 9-and-2 as quarterback and sometimes-receiver in his last season at Glenville in 2001. Since then, he has become the pride of the school and the Cleveland neighborhood, leading the buckeyes of OSU this year to a 12-and-0 season, and winning numerous awards - including the prestigious Heisman Trophy last weekend. Yesterday in a packed Glenville auditorium, as friends, fans, mentors and dignitaries awaited Smith's arrival, members of his family beamed with pride in the first row.

Jan Richards: It's awesome, it truly is.

Jan Richards is Smith's great aunt.

Jan Richards: He's always excelled in sports, this is not new, always takes things in stride, he's very spiritual, he's got a lot going for him.

Smith saw his share of hardship growing up in Glenville on Cleveland's east side. It's a struggle there sometimes to inspire kids, says Cecil Gamble. He's assistant director of a well-known program known as BRICK, an after-school fellowship program that emphasizes strong male mentors to young men.

Cecil Gamble: All of our youth go through different changes, and it's called choices. And because of the atmosphere that you're in and the direction people take you in, everybody makes bad choices. Even us as adults make bad choices sometimes. And one of the things we do with the BRICK program is that everybody falls, but do you lay down or do you get back up? And Troy clearly gets back up.

Once Smith arrived, a dozen or so speakers pumped up the audience heaping praise on Smith - Schools CEO Eugene Sanders, Mayor Frank Jackson, Glenville Coach Ted Ginn, Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, senator-elect Sherrod Brown... and Smith's best friend growing up - Bashir Jones.

Bashir Jones: In the summer of 7th grade when he said he was going to the NFL, I believed him. And he said this a long time ago, he said this. And I believed him then, and I said I was going to be a poet laureate or a movie star or something like that. But this is one of my best friends in the whole world. And he's very dear to my heart.

But it was Troy Smith himself, fresh from a workout and still in sweats, who stole the show, living up to the image those before him painted - determined, humble, and proud of his hometown.

Troy Smith: Any and everybody that knows me knows that I'm passionate about people and I accept the worst of the hardships that come into my life with a smile on my face. Because I think that shapes men and that shapes people. So youngsters, don't strive and don't run away and don't try to leave this situation, this situation here in this Glenville community is the best that you're going to be around whether you want to believe it or not, because I've seen it. When my career of holding the football and playing with the football is done, you best believe I'm going to be back here getting it back. Go Tarblooders and go Bucks.

Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, speaking at Cleveland's Glenville High School Wednesday. He leads the Buckeyes to the national championship game next month.