Two-Minute Drill

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For Torrey Smith to play just hours after learning that his 19-year-old brother, Tevin, was killed in a motorcycle crash was unbelievable.

For Smith to score two touchdowns and lead the Ravens to a 31-30 victory over the Patriots on Sunday night was simply unfathomable.

If Smith’s performance does not go down as one of the most inspiring athletic displays ever, then I just don’t know what would. It is absolutely devastating to lose a brother, and it can take weeks to even smile again.

Trust me, I know from experience.

I lost my older brother, Ted, who graduated from Fordham in 2004, in August of 2008 when he took his own life at just 22 years old. In the following weeks, any day where I made it out of bed was considered an accomplishment. That is not to say that I see myself having been weak during that time, as simply getting through such an experience is an almost insurmountable task. Instead, it means that Smith dealt with the loss in one of the most amazing ways imaginable.

While I coped with my brother’s death with at least two Slurpees a day for the first month following Ted’s death, Smith got through his first day without his brother by scoring two touchdowns on 127 receiving yards.

It is never smart to tell someone “I know how you feel,” after they lose a loved one, because in reality, everyone deals with loss in different ways. Still, I think that having teammate Ed Reed, who also lost a brother suddenly, will be a major asset for Smith.

While I do not know how Smith feels at the moment, I know what it feels like to suddenly lose someone so close. I could not even imagine what it would have been like if my story had been broadcast on all media outlets, as it was hard enough just to get out of the house to go to the grocery store. Smith has truly shown America what it means to honor someone you love.

Of course, Smith did not immediately make the decision to play in the game, as he first drove home to be with his family in Virginia after learning of his brother’s death. After news got out about the tragedy, Smith received tons of tweets and well-wishes from players and fans alike, all sending their prayers and condolences to the Baltimore wide receiver.

In the hours after my brother’s death I leaned on my immediate family members like my mom and sister. After doing the same, Smith then found comfort and support in the game he loved and people he loved playing with.

“It was tough emotionally. I didn’t know how I would hold up,” Smith said following the game. “I was telling my teammates a minute ago that this is new territory for me personally. I never really had to deal with a death in the family, let alone my brother. In our family, everyone’s so tight. Just like a lot of other families. It’s part of life and, due to my teammates and my family and friends, I’ll be able to get over it.”

The Ravens also honored Tevin, as the team showed a picture of Smith’s brother while asking the fans to hold a moment of silence. In the same way that I found solace in returning to school to be with my friends once again, Smith found comfort in being on the field, where he could be surrounded by thousands of fans ready to pick him up with their cheers. Throughout the game, chants of Smith’s name could be heard throughout the entire stadium, as the fans showed their wide receiver that they not only respected him, but they loved him.

Smith is not the only football player to play with a heavy heart this season, as other players have found comfort in football following a loss. While I find escapes in doing the things I love, NFL players follow suit, honoring their loved ones and dealing with their grief by playing the game they love.

Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz played against the Buccaneers in week two of the NFL season, the same week he lost his grandmother. Cruz, who learned how to salsa from his grandmother, honored her by performing his signature touchdown dance after breaking free for an 80-yard score in the fourth quarter of the game.

Following the game, he delivered a quote that is sure to give you goosebumps.

“Once I got to the 3 [yard line], I knew it was time to honor her and I knew she was with me,” Cruz said. “And it was almost like the place kind of went silent and I was just there dancing with her. It was a good moment.”

Another memorable game in which a player took the field shortly after a death in the family came Dec. 22, 2003, when Brett Favre played on the night his father passed away. You can’t help but admire the courage Favre had that night while playing with such a heavy heart, as he delivered four touchdowns on 399 yards as the Packers won the game.

I find it simply incredible that players are able to come from dealing with such grief and are still able to deliver these types of incredible performances.

Football, for them, has become the ultimate coping mechanism, a place where they can, for just a few brief moments, feel normal again. For people dealing with loss, finding that coping device is one of the most important things.

I just thank God that Smith was able to find his so soon after his loss.

Being able to feel normal again after losing your brother, even if for just a few seconds, is so important in the days following the loss of a brother.

It reminds you that one day you will settle back into your new routine.

Hopefully, he can continue to make it through this tough time, all while honoring his brother by hauling in touchdowns.