Home is where the heart is: Smith brings family to Lewes

Darren Purcell, coach Dave Frederick, Rodney Smith BY DAVE FREDERICK
June 13, 2014

You can’t go home again - Don’t tell that to Rodney Smith, Cape class of 1984 and now living in Florida, who dropped three grand on airfare to bring his wife and three girls to Lewes to share a bit of his history. Rodney excelled in soccer, basketball and track, where teammates called the 6-foot-5-inch high flyer and quick-twitch sprinter White Lighting. Smith high jumped 6-11 and also won a state title in the long jump. He ran some high hurdles and was crazy good on the 400, 800 and 1,600 relays. Rodney, who received a Jesuit education at St. Joe’s in Philly where he high jumped 7-2, invited his former teammate Darren Purcell and me, his track coach, to meet him at Irish Eyes Monday night. Darren was on a Cape school record 4-by-800 team in 1983 that included James Johnson, Hank Stack and Danny Harmon; they ran 7:59, a record that still stands. I must admit when guys you coached who are close to 48 years old tell you they love you and how you helped steer them in a positive direction, it doesn’t validate my life because that is my life. There are successful coaches who win championships and a few who also connect with their athletes on a spiritual level that lasts a lifetime. My own wife years ago said to me, “I hope our kids have a coach that is as good for them as you have been for your athletes.” I’m not bragging or puffing up my value in any way. I had a very special relationship with some Cape athletes a long time ago that has lasted a lifetime.

Hats and cheese steaks - I delivered cheese steaks June 10 at lunch time to my daughter Carrie’s classroom in Milton for her three eighth-graders who are moving up on out of there. "They know who you are, Dad, and are really excited you're coming," Carrie said.  Don’t know about all that but I was glad to have a place to show up where anyone knew my name, and I gave each student a Cape Gazette hat, which I signed with a personal message. I just required them to say my name, and each smiled and said, “Fredman.” It's just a fun name to say. And I had Carrie take our picture together. I can’t explain how kids know, but they do know Fredman is their lifetime friend for as much life as he has left.

Beefalos - The King Cole Ranch used to have hybrid cattle walking about and sometimes crossing Cave Neck Road that were half buffalo and half whatever else they wanted to be. I always thought of football linemen as beefalos and myself as a Wawa-card-carrying member of the Linemen for Life Club. On Tuesday at the NFL-sponsored five-day dinner time camp at Cape that also included Sussex Tech, Dover, Woodbridge, Milford and Sussex Central, I herded some Cape beef together for a quick shot. Cape also has some serious skills guys getting ready for the 2014 season (see photos). Cape is in a good place right now with the character of its student athletes.

Varsity Club - I think Cape should have a Varsity Club headed by a single teacher/coach/mentor who is cool and a role model who doesn’t smoke, drink, drug or talk in slang or drop F bombs to prove they are hip. And positive peer pressure can be a good and strong deterrent to deleterious behaviors that can later not only screw up your life but clamp down on it like a pair of vice grips. Honor roll should be a definite requirement, no chronic discipline issues (anyone can get written up by an attitude adult) and no drug or alcohol indulgence. The student athlete signs a pledge, “This is who I want to be," and if they break it, a peer council votes them out.

The athlete who drinks and does drugs as some entitled rite of passage into young adulthood makes no sense to me. But many will do that, which is their call, and some will survive unscathed but others will not. The Power of Positive Peer Pressure is immense and intense; a commitment to sobriety and (dare I say?) community outreach is a lot harder than any game played on the pitch or hardwood.

Snippets - It’s a new concept putting my own photo in my own column after 32 years. It's not conceit - I’d prefer to be a cartoon character - but rather provides a different perspective, like California Chrome heading down the home stretch of his career hoping to break the finish line a winner amidst the crushing noise of cheering friends and not tied for fourth with some plow horse no one ever heard about. Go on now, git!

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