By Mark Nagi
From time to time we like to catch up with a newsmaker in the world of sports. We spoke with former Powell standout Lee Smith, who recently retired after spending 11 years in the National Football League with the Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders and Atlanta Falcons. Smith stepped away from the game to open Triple F Elite Sports Training, a new performance center in the area.
The Knoxville Focus: Why did you decide that this was the time to retire, and that building Triple F Elite Sports Training was what you wanted to do with this next chapter in your life?
Lee Smith: I got the point in my football career that I enjoyed the Monday through Saturday of leading my young teammates more than I enjoyed playing and whipping another man’s ass. That was a huge switch for me mentally because I couldn’t wait for Sundays. I wrestled with God on it for a while… something told me that this was where I needed to be. I didn’t want to be a guy that just capitalized on something that God blessed me with by starting a fraudulent place. Let’s figure out how to make this work to where it is pure, it is effective, it is the coolest and best place in town for kids to grow spiritually and athletically. And Triple F was born. I just wanted to build a place that I can use all the resources and knowledge that I was gained over the years and train someone to get the most out of their body.
KF: Will Triple F Elite will be open for both kids and adults?
LS: It will be limited with the amount of people that I can train effectively. It will be structured like a professional sports environment. Every kid will have a specific card to their specific skillset and whether training in or out of season. That’s why I can’t train 1000 kids. Our place will be a little different. There will be an adult program that isn’t quite as individual specific. It will be more general because we aren’t training a 45-year-old firefighter or my CPA to play professional sports. But this will be selective, and it is bigger than just the sports side to me.
KF: You played for a long time in the NFL. Your job was to be as healthy and fit as possible. What lessons can you teach kids that can help them grow to that level?
LS: The reason such poor training of kids is hidden is because kids are like Gumby at this age. They fall down the stairs and bounce right back up. They are so resilient. I tell them they can eat at McDonald’s every day and still go play, but if you want to play sports at the highest level and want to have the ultimate success the way you take care of your body is so important. I have to make sure they understand that to be the best, the nutrition, the sleep and the body care are what separates Tom Brady from the guy who fizzled out in college and didn’t get to the pinnacle in sports. I’ve watched poor training and poor body care cost guys millions of dollars.
KF: You could have decided to live anywhere. Why did you decide you wanted to stay in East Tennessee and retire here?
LS: To be frank and honest I married my high school sweetheart, or I might be on a Texas ranch somewhere (laughs). But I thank God that I’m here with aunts, uncles, cousins, driving the same roads I did as a 16-year-old kid. I can tell these kids that I was right here at their age and things could have gone really bad. But God blessed me to help these kids from making the same mistakes I made. This is my home. It’s my family home. Even though I’ve been all over playing football, this is home.
By the way, the secret of Knoxville is out. This is the best place in the world. I have multiple teammates that are considering moving here.
Triple F Elite Sports Training will be located off Oak Ridge Highway at 4900 Guinn Road in the Solway area. They will be open in the summer. Learn more at www.triplefknoxville.com.