One of Steve Smith’s best drives was the one that took him full-circle and back to the Bell. Taco Bell. Before taking on his new job as an analyst for the NFL Network’s NFL GameDay Morning, the retired wide receiver briefly made a comeback at the iconic fast-food restaurant. Why? Because the life lessons it taught him in high school and junior college are lessons he continues to value — plus it looked like fun.
Steve Smith’s work ethic
The phrase “Welcome to Taco Bell” may not be your usual influence on your way to a promising football career, but high school junior Smith needed money for the prom. Armed with the tools that his parents taught him about work and life, he worked until he bought all he needed for the dance. He could’ve quit then, but ended up working his senior year and throughout junior college.
After receiving his scholarship to Utah where he played for the Utes, things just kind of took off and a promising career began. From Utah, the third-round draft pick packed up and headed to the east coast and the Carolina Panthers before settling in and ending his football career with the Baltimore Ravens, reports ESPN.
Smith says that football is a lot like working fast food, it’s a job. Like any job, if you want to move through the ranks, you’ve got to put in the time, discipline and hard work. That’s what Smith did both on and off the field.
Lessons learned off the field
So what exactly did working four years at Taco Bell teach Smith? It showed him that showing up each day to work earns you value as a member of a team.
Smith learned to manage his time and money, discerning between his needs and his wants. It also taught Smith to think on his feet and get the job done — a skill that served him well in his football career.
Lessons learned on the field
So how did cashiering, working the drive-thru window, and working long hours at Taco Bell translate into 16 seasons with the NFL, five pro-bowls, 1031 receptions, 14,731 yards, and 81 touchdowns? Tenacity? Multi-tasking? Endurance? Patience when you’re tired and just want to go home?
All of those things and more. Both jobs were tough. Like the old adage says, “if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” Smith learned to stay in that kitchen whether it was working fast food or working the field with his team.
Perhaps most importantly, he also learned that a job is a job. Like he said to The Big Lead: “I don’t have to work. I get to work,” Smith said. “I get to do this job, so I try to keep that perspective.”
Maybe that’s one of the reasons Smith returned to Taco Bell before rushing into his gig at GameDay Morning. After watching the video, you’ve got to admit it was a great photo op, minus slamming his head into the closed drive-thru window. But somehow this made Smith seem more human and more than tough guy out on the football field. He doesn’t fall for his own press but uses it wisely.
Smith may not have a Super Bowl ring, but he’s had a super fabulous football career. His “it’s just a job” attitude is far from unappreciative or cavalier. It’s practical advice that he’s happy to share with his four kids.
But his best anecdote may be on his daddy job. It’s a job that Smith holds in the highest esteem, noting that being a parent is a lot tougher than football or fast food ever was. All valuable lessons. Sage advice, chalupa man!