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"He Kept Giving Back"

Charles Grant Remembers Will Smith



From 2002 until 2009, defensive end Charles Grant helped the Saints stifle opposing offenses. For five of those years, Grant played alongside his friend and “brother” Will Smith. In the wake of Smith’s tragic death, Grant talked with NOLA Defender about the former Saints captain, New Orleans, and guns.

 

On the morning of April 10th, retired Saint, Charles Grant woke up to about 50 missed calls and 100 text messages. He soon learned that his former teammate had been murdered the previous evening. Grant recalled, “I couldn’t believe it. It hurt me from the core. I couldn’t even get out of bed. I felt weak in the knees. I not only lost a football friend, but to think about his family, his wife, his kids—“

 

Grant explained that he first met Smith when the future defensive captain was drafted by the Saints. Grant knew there was something special from the first day. “Will Smith—when he walked in the door, I knew he was going to be something great. As I got to know him, he only became a better football player, a better man, a better person,” recollected Grant. “He was someone that I wish everyone would have the opportunity to encounter because the people that knew him knew that he was much more than a great football player, he was a great human being, someone who never stopped giving back to the community.”

 

Seven years with the Saints formed a lasting bond between Grant and Smith as well as between Grant and New Orleans. Grant said that he still visits the Crescent City at least twice a month and saw his friend as often as possible during those trips. “I love the City of New Orleans. I came here in 2001,” he remembered. “The Saints organization embraced me, but the people embraced me more. The people, in general, you love them. They are conversive and emotional. They are not arrogant people. They are just working class people trying to get by. I tell others all the time, ‘The people in New Orleans are survivors. that’s what you got to love about them. They will figure out a way to make it happen.’”

 

However, Grant believes that the populace he so cherishes has been cheated. “I think politicians have robbed this city blind for so many years. And at that worst times of their lives, Hurricane Katrina, people were robbing others who had no place to live. We’re talking about hundreds of millions stolen from people who had nothing,” lamented the DE.

 

Rampant shootings are included in his list of indignities that he feels that the populace are forced to bear. He told NoDef that the topic is personal to him, noting that in 2008 he was charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the shooting of a woman outside of a Georgia night club. Although, the felony charge was dismissed, Grant never forgot the traumatic experience. “A lot of people are scared to talk about guns I’m not one of them,” he explained.

 

Grant said that he is a fierce advocate for gun control like Coach Payton. “Guns you don’t need them. Congress and the President need to take a stance on them. People are dying from guns, we don’t need them.”

 

The Saints star argued that Smith’s death should serve as an impetus to take a stand and pass legislation. “This should have never got to this point. People in New Orleans have been dying. It’s bad that happened to a great football player that bought the city a Super Bowl. But its happening every day to citizens all over the city and country and we don’t hear enough about it. The only way that we can honor Will Smith as a person is to stop carrying guns. Guns should only be in people’s homes, not in their cars or person. There needs to be a higher age limit to own a gun. Let’s start a Will Smith Gun Law!”

 

After previous high profile shootings like Sandy Hook and Aurora, a few weeks of public outcry were followed by little action or additional debate. The Saints star is worried that the same will happen after his friend’s murder. “People talked about this for years, but they didn’t do anything about it. In this situation, people start talking about doing something, but four months later, are they still going to be talking?” he questioned. “Will Smith didn’t stop caring about the City of New Orleans four months after he stopped playing. He started a foundation and kept giving back. He gave back to people, to the city. He gave back to those that he didn’t even know because he loved this place and it’s people. We have to do the same.”

 

Grant also theorizes that much of the problem is societal, including a focus on negativity in modern America. He suggests that a shift toward civility is a good first step. “I mean it was a fender bender, get a tag number, call the police. That’s how you handle that. Don’t take the law into your own hand and think that you’re bigger than the police.”

 

The defensive end understands one of NOLA’s core values. He stresses that progress  only comes when many individuals band together. “One person can’t do something. Even god gathered 12 disciples to do something. I hate that it that a great man like Will Smith had to be gunned down for people to do do something, but now we must get together and take action.”

 

Most of all, Grant is pained by the loss suffered by the surviving Smith family. “I lost my brother when I was young. I was seven he was four. He died in my lap. It’s hard to understand this type of loss if you haven’t experienced it. In this situation, all we can do is pray and make New Orleans a better place to live.”

Erin Rose
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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde

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Michael Weber, B.A.

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Linzi Falk

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Alexis Manrodt


B. E. Mintz


Stephen Babcock

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