Vero Beach, FL native Eric Smith, attended Vero Beach High School. He played football, received a full ride football scholarship from Louisiana State University and was later drafted into the National Football League at 18. He went on to play as a wide receiver for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chicago Bears between 1995 and 1999.
His football career ended abruptly because of an injured ankle along with large lawsuits from a bar fight that left another man with serious injuries while he was in college.
Smith said not being able to play the sport led him to battle depression, become addicted to crack cocaine and become homeless in Vero Beach.
According to an April 30, 2019 article in VeroNews by Nick Samuel, “when a local pastor found Smith sleeping on the stairs of a local church more than a year ago, Smith’s situation began to change for the better. The pastor told Smith about The Source, a local Christian ministry serving the poor and homeless.
Smith was one of many people suffering from situations such as homelessness who enrolled in the ministry’s Dining with Dignity program. Those who enroll learn to prepare meals through a 12-week training program, preparing them to be career ready when they graduate and changing their lives for the better, according to the organization’s website.”
The Source subsequently hired Smith as a full-time staff member to help train and serve as a ‘light’ for others.
“I’m glad they gave me the opportunity to try it. It allows you to let go of things that are hindering you,” Smith said at the time. “It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It showed me what God can do.”
Also, according to Nick Samuel’s April 30, 2019 article, “’You have to trust the process that’s bigger than yourself,” Smith said, noting that others in the program have graduated and earned jobs at local restaurants. ‘It’s crazy to see what God can do.’
Smith also has been clean for the past 18 months, has an apartment of his own and his happily married to his wife, Jennifer Smith.”
While believed to be fully rehabilitated, on September 10th, 2021 at 7:10 a.m. Smith was arrested for Aggravated Battery, Hinder Communication to 911 and Felony Criminal Mischief. He is currently incarcerated.
The following is the police report having to do with his arrest:
On Friday September 10th, 2021 at approximately 0710 hours myself [Reporting Officer Robinson] and Sgt. Pierce responded to 1371 3rd Ct in reference to a Domestic Battery.
Upon arrival I [Robinson] made contact with the suspect, Eric Smith.
Sgt. Pierce made contact with the victim, Denley Bell. She was at the residence located at 1341 3rd Ct. Sgt. Pierce advised me that Bell said they had been arguing all night and both Bell and Smith had been drinking.
Bell advised that they had just gotten into an argument and she was attempting to leave the home to prevent a further altercation. At this time Smith grabbed Bell by her arms and pulled her back into the residence preventing her from leaving. At this point Smith began punching Bell in the face with a closed fist. Bell advised she was punched approximately 15 times. The physical altercation started at the front door of the home and made its way throughout the residence.
Bell and Smith live together as a family and have been in a friendship for approximately 3 years and it became intimate in January of 2021. He also currently resides at the residence where the disturbance took place.
At this time Smith was taken into custody and placed into mechanical hand restraints which were double locked and checked for proper fit. Smith was then transported to IRC Jail for booking. While transporting Smith to the jail he repeatedly advised that he did not do anything to Bell. The entire incident was captured on my agency issued body worn camera.
Bells injuries were extensive. She had a laceration to her upper left lip which will most likely need to be stitched and causing a permanent scar. She had a contusion underneath her right eye. She had marks all over both of her legs and arms. The marks on her arms were between the elbow and shoulder and were consistent with being grabbed by someone. She also had fresh blood all over her face and nose and her face was very swollen.
While at the Jail Sgt. Pierce went into the residence and found dried blood all over the bed and pillows and wall inside the home. This would be consistent with Bells injuries being fresh and not old.
Apparently, Denley Bell was Smith’s girlfriend, while he was “happily” married to his wife, Jennifer Smith.
Such a shame.