Before returning from the Eagles’ bye week to practice for the final stretch of the season, rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith spent his Monday evening surprising local youth.
In a partnership with Dick’s Sporting Goods’ clothing line, VRST, Smith hosted a holiday shopping spree for the Staley Park youth football program. The Camden-based group consisting of 9- and 10-year-olds had planned to have dinner at the shopping complex and shop at the store in Cherry Hill.
But the team was pleasantly surprised by Smith, who appeared discreetly as the children gathered for a group photo.
“Being able to give back to the kids, it brings me a lot of joy,” Smith told The Inquirer. “I was once a kid, something like this would mean so much to me when I was young. It’s a great feeling.”
“When I get done playing, I want to mentor kids for the same reason my mentors helped me. I want to take these kids to different places, keep them out of trouble. Just being that mentor for them — let them know they’re going places, get them into college, go through life in general. I’ve realized I can be that role model for them.”
After introducing himself and meeting with several of the Staley Park players and coaches, Smith shouted, “Let’s go Christmas shopping!”
Included in many shopping carts were football cleats, new gear and, yes, No. 6 DeVonta Smith Eagles jerseys.
“That was beautiful — it was memorable,” longtime Staley Park coach Carl Davis said. “I want to thank DeVonta and Dick’s for keeping our kids off the streets and maintaining positivity in our program. We were shell-shocked. We will all go home with new football gear, but this moment is priceless.”
Smith was the Eagles’ top pick at No. 10 overall in the draft. The 2020 Heisman Trophy winner has made an immediate impact on the Eagles offense.
Smith ranks third among rookie wide receivers in yards (701) and receptions (50), trailing only the Bengals’ Ja’Marr Chase and the Dolphins’ Jaylen Waddle, a former Alabama teammate. Smith’s 701 receiving yards are more than the combined yardage from the team’s Nos. 2 and 3 wide receivers: Quez Watkins and Jalen Reagor, 699.
Monday marked the conclusion of the team’s bye week as the Eagles shift their focus toward Sunday’s home game versus Washington. Both teams are 6-7 and in the hunt for an NFC wild-card playoff spot with only four games remaining.
Smith, 23, maintained a low profile during the bye week. He stayed in the Philadelphia area at the beginning of the week before returning to his native Louisiana on Friday.
Smith made an appearance at the Superdome in New Orleans, where he cheered on his younger brother, Christian, and his alma mater, Amite High School, in the state Class 2A football championship game. Amite defeated Many, 17-6, to claim the school’s first state title since 2018.
The following day, Smith cheered on Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, a former teammate, who was named this year’s Heisman Trophy winner.
“I was so excited for him, man,” Smith said. “I remember all the times we were in our hotel rooms, he would be head down into the playbook, asking me questions about what I see on the field, always trying to get better in the littlest of ways. Knowing all that hard work paid off for him, I just want him to enjoy the moment.”
At Dick’s, Smith spent an hour maneuvering his way through the aisles with the children, helping them pick out items and gifts. At the conclusion of the shopping trip, Smith assisted the Staley Park youth group with checking out their purchases at the cash register.
It was there that Smith’s phone rang.
Already in a joyous mood, the kids became even more ecstatic when Smith picked up a call from ... Jalen Hurts.
Smith allowed several kids the chance to take a turn and FaceTime with the Eagles quarterback. The children in attendance were all smiles as the night of surprises continued.
Before hanging up, Hurts posed a brief parting question to Smith.
“You ready to get back to work?” the quarterback asked.
“You already know,” the rookie receiver responded, grinning.