, the National Football League’s all-time sack leader and Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2009 inductee, was honored Wednesday, Oct. 10 as a Hometown Hall of Famer™ by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate Insurance Company
during a special plaque ceremony at Booker T. Washington High School in Norfolk, Va.
The 11-time Pro Bowl selection who spent his career with the (1985-1999) and Washington Redskins (2000-03) returned to the same high school auditorium where he once sat as he was presented the historic hometown plaque in front of more than 500 students, alumni and community members. Special guests also included members of the school board, the Deputy Superintendent, the district Director of Athletics and current NBA referee and Booker T. Washington alumnus Tony Brothers.
Presenting Bruce with his plaque was his former high school basketball coach and longtime friend and mentor Malcolm “Zeke” Avery, who walked the audience through Smith’s extensive high school career. Avery noted that not only was Smith a star football player, he was the leading scorer and rebounder on the basketball team, a champion heavy-weight wrestler, a track star at shot put, and even a member of the debate team.
Similar to the noise heard in stadiums across the nation, thunderous roars of “BRUUUCE” echoed throughout the auditorium as Smith unveiled the plaque and took the stage where he thanked the Norfolk community for all the support and positive guidance they provided through the years.
“I’m not standing here today for me. I’m standing here today for every one of you sitting in the same chairs where I once sat,” stated Smith who was named first- or second-team All-Pro 11 times during his NFL career. “I’m here to encourage and inspire you to make good decisions and the right decisions, and to help you realize that each one of you is gifted in some fashion.
“My coaches and teachers here at Booker T. saw more in me than I saw in myself. These coaches and teachers, as well as myself, feel the same about you and see the talent and gift in each one of you,” he continued. “Dream big, set obtainable goals and be around productive individuals, and you will achieve greatness.”
In addition to the plaque, a commemorative Hometown Hall of Famer™ road sign will be on display in Norfolk, Va.
Additional speakers included event emcee and Booker T. Washington High School Principal Kevin Monroe; Mike Sanoba, Allstate Insurance Company; and George Veras, president and CEO of Pro Football Hall of Fame Enterprises.
“Today, Booker T. Washington is the 34th high school in the country to become a part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame through this historic plaque ceremony,” said Veras. “We hope this plaque inspires you to be a Hall of Famer in other aspects of life, not just sports, and helps you realize that you too can accomplish greatness just like Bruce did.”
Smith, the 1984 Outland Trophy winner and consensus All-American pick from Virginia Tech, was the first player selected overall in the 1985 NFL Draft by the Bills. He earned a starting position his rookie year and was named the AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year by the NFL Players Association. Considered one of the most dominant defensive players of all time, Smith recorded a record 200 sacks during his 19-season NFL career. Double- and triple-teamed by most offenses, his lightning quickness and massive strength allowed him to get to quarterbacks and ball carriers.
While in Buffalo, Smith helped the Bills to an unprecedented four straight Super Bowls and recorded a safety in Super Bowl XXV. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Teams of the 1980s and 1990s.
“Like Hall of Famers including , we at Allstate know and understand the value of hometown pride, which we saw here today at Booker T. Washington High School. That is why we are proud to be a part of this program,” said Mike Sanoba, a Norfolk Allstate agent.
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