Updates from Thursday, March 20
Steve Smith posted an image on Twitter of himself with Gavin:
ESPN's David Newton had more on the meeting:
Smith, who signed with the Baltimore Ravens 24 hours after being released by Carolina a week ago, surprised Gavin Simone on ABC's "Good Morning America" with a hug and the first "Smith Sr" No. 89 Ravens jersey.
Smith sought out Simone on social media after seeing a video filmed by the child's father when he told him Smith had been released.
"It touched me a little bit,'' Smith said Tuesday on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" show. "He was balling. He had the ugly face cry.''
So Smith set up the surprise meeting with Simone on GMA. There were no tears, just smiles.
Smith also promised to bring Simone to his football camp later this spring in Charlotte.
"Had to meet him and hook him up with some new Ravens gear,'' Smith said on GMA.
Wide receiver Steve Smith is no longer a member of the Carolina Panthers, but that isn't enough to stop him from reaching out to one suddenly famous Panthers fan.
After 13 successful seasons in Carolina, the Panthers made the unpopular decision to release Smith on March 13, according to the team's official Twitter account:
Not surprisingly, it didn't take long for Smith to land on his feet as he inked a three-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens, per CSN Baltimore:
A change of scenery may serve Smith well, but that is little consolation for the Panthers fans who adored him. One fan in particular made headlines in the wake of Smith's release.
As seen in this viral YouTube video, a little boy named Gavin was inconsolable after his father broke the news that Smith would no longer be playing for the Panthers:
After seeing the video, Smith announced his intention to get in contact with Gavin and his family:
I need that kids info. If anyone knw him or how to get in touch pls help me... I need help finding Gavin. The crying kid— Steve Smith (@89SteveSmith) March 16, 2014
Smith was ultimately able to, and he intends to meet Gavin when he makes his way back to Carolina:
I found Gavin. His dad and I got in contact. Once I'm back in town will hook up the Lil guy...... everyone thank u for ur help— Steve Smith (@89SteveSmith) March 16, 2014
While Gavin won't get to watch Smith play for the Panthers in 2014, perhaps meeting his favorite player will cushion the blow to some extent.
Gavin's reaction to Smith being cut was emotional, but it is one Panthers fans of any age can likely relate to. Smith has been in Carolina through both good and bad times, and nobody ever questioned his will or desire to perform well on Sundays.
General manager Dave Gettleman ultimately made the decision to end the Steve Smith era, but he admitted that making such a franchise-altering choice was difficult, according to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer.
Steve Smith has been one of the NFL's finest receivers for over a decade and has been the face of the franchise for a large part of the team's history. This was not an easy decision. As a team, we made a step forward last year; however we are also a team in transition, which is a part of the NFL.
In retrospect, it can be argued that releasing Smith was senseless in some ways. In addition to losing Smith, Brandon LaFell signed with the New England Patriots and Ted Ginn is now a member of the Arizona Cardinals. Add in the fact that Carolina has missed out on several potential replacements in free agency, and it's safe to assume the Panthers might regret cutting Smith in 2014 and beyond.
Smith is a fiery competitor who has probably rubbed plenty of opponents the wrong way over the years, but that attitude is precisely what endeared him to Panthers fans.
Was cutting Steve Smith the right move for the Panthers?
Even though he comes off looking like a tough guy on the field, the fact that he is willing to take time out of his schedule in order to console one of his biggest fans speaks to the type of person that Smith truly is.
As much as Smith's absence will hurt the Panthers on the field, losing the connection he has with the community may hurt just as much.
If nothing else, hopefully Smith is able to restore Gavin's faith in football. He'll come to understand the business side of things as he gets older, but maybe Smith can aid in the healing process until then.
Ultimately, for all the negative headlines that NFL players tend to make on occasion, it's great to see someone like Smith using his fame in a positive way.
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