ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith has been in the sports journalism industry since he was a young man attending Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina.
Before Smith got to Bristol, Connecticut, and even before he was an NBA reporter in Philadelphia, his professor encouraged him to go down the path of being a sportswriter, which eventually brought him to the Winston-Salem Journal to meet the sports editor. He met with the editor, and after 5 minutes, he was hired as a clerk.
Smith recalled his backstory during an interview with OutKick’s Clay Travis. He said he started out getting $400 a week, “living off tuna fish and Kool-Aid,” working for the newspaper. He talked about having to cover the Wake Forest University soccer team for a feature.
“I said to the sports editor Terry Oberle I said, ‘I don’t know anything about soccer. The only soccer match I only watched was Pele in 1980. I don’t know anything about this.’ He said, ‘Tell me how that’s my problem. Figure it out,’” Smith said. “So, I went over there to Wake Forest University and the coach’s name was Walt Chyzowych. I’ll never forget him as long as I live. He’s passed away now, God rest his wonderful soul.
“And I walked up to him, this little Black kid from Hollis, Queens, New York City, I walked up to this guy and I said, ‘Sir, I’m Stephen A. Smith from the Winston-Salem Journal. I’m an aspiring sports writer. I have never covered soccer in my life. They’ve sent me on this assignment and if I don’t do it right, my chances of becoming a sports writer ain’t going to look too good. Can you help me?’”
Smith’s request worked. He said Chyzowych called the entire team over to him and said that Smith had full access to all the players for the rest of the week so he could get his story. He said the entire team spent the entire week teaching him.
He said the piece earned him a place as the beat writer for the Wake Forest soccer team, and that was how his career got started.
Smith was then at the Greensboro News, New York Daily News and then the Philadelphia Enquirer before becoming the major media personality he is now.