“I have a lot of fans back there who support me; all of my coaches back there support me, and Utica has been real good to me.” â??Will Smith
Will Smith never forgot where he came from. The short 28 second clip below is a testament to those statements. Perhaps it’s why yet another two coaches chose to talk with WDD and share their thoughts and sentiments about the New Orleans Saint who was killed on April 9 of last year.
The first coach the Dish caught up with was Will’s former Track and Field coach, Ralph Lupia. Lupia, back in 2005, was inducted into the Utica Sports Hall of Fame.
Robert Gagnier: When did you first come across Will, and just how long did he run track and field with you?
Ralph Lupia: I first met Will when he came out for track as a varsity freshman. It had to be about ’96 or so since he graduated in 2000. I coached track until I retired in ’05, so I’ve been out for a few years now. But we stayed in contact after he left high school and went on to Ohio State and ultimately to New Orleans. In fact, I had seen Will shortly before his death because he came up here to attend one of his friends weddings in Utica and we spent a little time together and it was there that I met his wife Racquel for the first time. As a freshman he was the man among boysâ??he was always the big kid and very mature physically for his age. So by the time he got to be a sophomore and a junior he saw a lot of time on the varsity squad.
In fact, he was on our 4Ã?100 relay team. People think of him as a Saint getting after quarterbacks, but even in high school he was very fast for a 220 id. He ran the second leg of the relay in his junior year and we came in sixth in the state, so he contributed there as well. By the time he got to be a senior and Ohio State recruited him, he then shifted a lot of his time and focus toward football by working out and lifting so he saw about half a season with us for his senior year. But we stayed in contact and I can’t say enough about him. He had a quite type of leadership about him. He was never bossy and a lot of kids looked up to him. He was great in football, and was fairly fast with us in track and field, so he got a ton of respect either way. He ran with us for three and a half seasons.
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