Lions unsung hero Khreem Smith's fairy tale journey | Football | CBC Sports

CFLLions unsung hero Khreem Smith's fairy tale journey

Posted: Monday, November 28, 2011 | 01:27 AM

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The B.C. Lions celebrate with the Grey Cup after defeating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 34-23 in 99th CFL Grey Cup on Sunday in Vancouver. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press) The B.C. Lions celebrate with the Grey Cup after defeating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 34-23 in 99th CFL Grey Cup on Sunday in Vancouver. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

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Once upon a time there was a man named Khreem Smith who found a great, golden Grey Cup ring at the end of a long, long journey. 

Once upon a time there was a man named Khreem Smith who found a great, golden Grey Cup ring at the end of a long, long journey. 
 
He was a kind man, though like so many heroes, not a perfect one nor particularly well known. But he loved children and taught elementary school when he could, down in Miami, Fla.
 
Khreem was a football player, a defensive lineman, who could not find a permanent home in the sports forest, forever moving through such places as Baltimore, Minnesota and Kansas City in the kingdom of the NFL.
 
And through Memphis, Chicago, Milwaukee and Spokane, in the kingdom of the Arena League.
 
Finally, a home appeared in the Canadian Football League kingdom, where he finally landed at the age of 32 this year.
 
The town of Vancouver, represented by Lions, was down in the dumps, struggling at 0-3 in inter-city competitions of jousting and wrestling.

Picked Lions up
 
But since Smith's arrival, the team suddenly took off, began winning, and on this Sunday won the great Grey Cup of story and legend.
 
It's a great tale, isn't it? And Smith will be able to take that story back to his students and show them the ring, and explain what it means.
 
"All I can tell them is, don't give up on your dreams, no matter what your doubters who bring you down say," he said, standing with a slightly bemused expression on the orange and white confetti-covered B.C. Place field where eardrum-busting music pounded down from the near heavens above.
 
"Don't ever give up."
 
With the ring comes the $18,000 winner's share and a chance to come back next season to try and make a major pro team for the second year in a row - and that would be a first.
 
It also comes with immortality of a sort, something that seems important to a man who helped turn around the Lions this year, so much so that coach Wally Buono calls Smith one of the major reasons his club even made it to the big game.
 
"The ring is great, but this championship is from God," he said. "When you are dead, you are gone, but your name is still on that banner."
 
Or the silver chalice, in this case.
 
Aaron Hunt, a knight on the defensive line for six years now, knows what Smith has meant to the team.

'I'm so happy he's on our side'
 
"He's kind of like the unsung hero, man," Hunt said. "No one talks about him, so I'm happy you are writing this story about him.
 
"He's meant more to this change [in how the team played]. We were 0-5 and Khreem helped us out so much. I'm happy he's on our side."
 
Living in a hotel near Robson Street, with no family in town, and none at the game, Smith gave one of his tickets to a homeless man, and bought him some clothes to wear for the occasion, said Roy Shivers, the team's player personnel director.
 
But the defender himself wasn't without family, really, Hunt said. Because the team is his family.
 
Next June, Smith will be back to try and keep the fairy tale alive so he'll have more to tell his class before he finally closes the book on the career.
 
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