Former Oakland Raider Bubba Smith, for Whom the Bell Tolls

It was July 11, 2011, just a few days ago, that a young man asked to speak with me about his math class. He introduced himself and said he worked for the Houston Texans YMCA. Later he added that his grandparents lived next door to the parents of Bubba Smith, a former Oakland Raider. Smith played for the Raiders from 1973 to 1974.

I was surprised on that day, July 11, at noon. The church bells ring at noon each weekday, and they tolled on that day, too. The chapel is across the street from the college. We heard the bells.

Those few moments of sharing were powerful, and I told the young man named Robert Anderson that it seemed so unusual for him to mention Smith.

Anderson also shared that Kenny Houston, a Hall of Famer, was his godfather. That too surprised me. You see, Houston's wife was my math supervisor during the years I was a high school teacher at Davis High School in the Houston Independent School District.

I left that meeting thinking that something profound was going to happen. How fortunate I considered myself to be in the presence of someone who grew up near or in the environment of some great NFL players.

Today I was shocked to hear of the death of Smith. The folks in the Golden Triangle loved and respected him. He brought a great deal of attention to the area because of his accomplishments in football and in his acting career. 

In fact, several years ago one of the mayors of the Beaumont area honored Smith and about 21 other NFL players who grew up in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area. A great program was done in honor of Smith and several others. A proclamation was made in honor of them, and it is deposited in a historical library in Beaumont, Texas.

Sometimes a classic phrase comes to mind when these situations occur. It sometimes seems that the bell tolls call attention to the life and name of great men. Later, we make connection...

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