By the time Chad Smith and his Clemson teammates run down the Hill and into Death Valley on Saturdays, the national anthem has already been performed. Most college teams rarely participate in the national anthem because they are in their locker rooms getting last-second instructions and coached up one more time before kicking things off.
Because of this there has been very little to no controversy surrounding college football, unlike some of the professional athletes in the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball, who have chosen to take a knee during the national anthem in protest.
And though he respects their right to protest, Smith says he will not kneel during the national anthem because he does not want to disrespect those in his family who have fought in several major wars and risked their lives for his freedom and our freedom to have the right to protest.
“Everyone has their own personal opinion, whether you have a military background or not, there is a lot of controversy hovering over that so I personally will always stand for the national anthem,” the Clemson linebacker said. “But other people have their reasons for kneeling, and that is all good, so to be honest with you it is all up to a personal opinion.”
Smith has his opinion because both of his grandfathers, his father, his uncle and his brother served in the Armed Forces. His grandfather was a pilot in World War II and was captured by the Germans after the plan he was flying went down in a German occupied country.
He was a Prisoner of War (POW) for three months until being liberated by the Russians.
“He is definitely a person that is a true hero in my book,” Smith said.
So when Smith sees Clemson honoring those Clemson graduates who have served our country and those who given the ultimate sacrifice during Military Appreciation Day on Saturday, when the Tigers host The Citadel in their home finale, he will smile with a lot of pride.
“It means a lot to me actually,” he said. “It is a special day. It is great to have Military Appreciation. It is a salute to those who serve overseas and sacrifice a lot, for not only our safety, but just for the country.”
Smith’s grandfather was in the Air Force and flew B-52 Bombers. His plane was shot down over one of the German controlled countries and he was the last person to jump out of his airplane. When he parachuted out, he landed and broke his ankle and the Germans captured him. He was a POW for three months before he was liberated by the Russians.
“It is pretty awesome and neat to hear some of those stories that he shares to his grand kids and whatnot,” Smith said. “Even my dad sometimes, even at his age, says ‘Wow, you never told me that story!’
“It is really surreal and you kind of do not have words to come up with and how awesome a moment like that is to see. That is my grandpa right there who served in, arguably, one of the biggest wars in the history of the world so it will be pretty exciting on Saturday.”