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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Making it football and life
By Times Staff Writer
Published August 26, 2007
It's 1:45 on Saturday afternoon at Bartlett Park in South St. Petersburg. Freddie Smith, 34, is surrounded by 13- and 14-year-old boys.
The young football players are at that interesting age where they claim manhood but have yet to begin shaving.
"When I played, there were more parents involved," said coach Smith. "Nowadays there are lots of single parents, but you still have some parents involved.
"I grew up in Rogers Project in Bradenton. It was a very tough neighborhood. Football was one way of getting out of the projects. We were poor. My older brother Joe got a summer job and paid my fees so I could play my first year of Pop Warner.
"My Pop Warner coach and my brother Joe Stuckman kept me on the path."
Smith has worked four year as a Pop Warner football coach. He is now the offensive coordinator of the Raiders, a Pop Warner pee wee football team in the Pinellas Youth Football Conference in St. Petersburg.
After playing Pop Warner football for the Manatee Broncos, Smith played at Bradenton Southeast High School and at the University of Cincinnati.
Smith believes mental toughness is essential to making it in football and in life.
After the Raiders lost their game Saturday 19-0, coach Smith said, "At the next practice, we won't need a football. Because they're going to run all practice!"