Becoming the Role Model He Needed

By the time Powell-native Lee Smith first stepped on the field as a professional football player, he knew a thing or two about second chances. The wayward tight end had already blown through 50 of them.

As the oldest brother of three and son to an alcoholic father, Lee had very few male role models in his early life. By the time he was drafted by the New England Patriots in 2011, Lee had already flunked out of one university, gotten a DUI, and had an alcohol problem of his own.

“When you didn’t have proper role models as a young child,” Lee says, “it’s just so easy to slide off the rails, when there’s not someone there you respect to grab you.”

His 11 years in the NFL – along with his family and faith – helped shape him into the respected veteran and supportive family man he is today. He mentored other players and earned a second degree in child psychology. After retiring professionally in 2022, Lee decided he wanted to do more for young athletes. Specifically, he knew he could be a mentor and role model to young teens who needed an adult they could trust, who could help them achieve their sports dreams.

Lee opened the Triple F Elite Sports Training facility in Knoxville, Tennessee to provide specialized one-on-one training and conditioning. Lee and his team of former professional athletes have helped shape athletic paths for dozens of children, teens and adults in the greater Knoxville area. By 2023, his dream was starting to take shape, but there was still something missing.

Triple F coaches people from all different backgrounds, but Lee quickly realized he wasn’t reaching his target audience – those athletes from turbulent backgrounds like his own. That’s where No Athlete Left Behind comes in.

NALB partners with Triple F to provide FREE professional training to disadvantaged youth. At Triple F, athletes learn the importance of perseverance, respect, self-discipline and self-worth. Athletes receive training and conditioning to become top performers in their sport, but more importantly, they find healthy role models and faith in themselves.

“I never had that person to say ‘hey, it’s ok to screw up, it’s how you recover from that,” Lee says. “It’s how you don’t let one mistake turn into fifty mistakes.”

No Athlete Left Behind is a donor-funded program that will provide transportation, instruction, equipment and mentorship to 50 young athletes each season. You can become a part of this movement to mentor children by making a donation today. Visit [link] to learn more.