Everyone has a story, and everyone has a calling. It may take longer for some of us to find it, but no matter how long it takes, we can impact the world. Former Denver Broncos Rod Smith has a story that is the envy of armchair athletes around the state and the country. Smith is a two-time Super Bowl champion and a member of the Denver Broncos stellar Ring of Fame. In his playing days he was well on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hip injuries forced him out of the game he so loved in 2007 and he retired from professional football in 2008.
Smith’s journey parallels many a professional athlete who grew up in unfavorable if not dismal circumstances, who found that sport would lead them out of their communities of despair. He grew up in the small town of Texarkana, Arkansas and played sports in high school, eventually playing Division II football at Missouri Southern State. His childhood was spent most of the time figuring out how to get out of the projects in Texarkana. He made a $20 bet with his mother that he would be the first in the family to graduate from college. He jokingly commented that she still owes him $60 for the three degrees in business that he earned at Missouri Southern State-Marketing, Marketing Management and Finance.
Football brought him to higher education and business is what inspired him. “I got three degrees, and I am going to be real with you. It’s because everything that I saw growing up was illegal. I saw a few legal businesses and I can’t discount the good people in my neighborhood with the legitimate businesses, but most of the businesses that I saw were either not done properly or illegal,” says Smith. “The people who I saw living a certain way had legitimate legal businesses, and so I thought that is what I need to study. In order for me to get out of the projects, I need to first understand self, deal with other people and learn how to conduct business.”
After football, Smith has had numerous business ventures and investments. “I have made hundreds of thousands even millions of dollars in other businesses since I retired, but none of them have been more personally rewarding as the coffee business,” he says. Smith is a Diamond level distributor with Organo Gold Coffee, one of the largest direct sales network marketing businesses in the world. His team is a purveyor of healthy coffees, and this is not something that Smith had ever considered before, because he says that he didn’t even drink coffee when he first heard of this new breakthrough in the coffee industry. He loves drinking his gourmet healthy coffee now. As to why he got into the coffee business and network marketing, Smith says, “It was out of my comfort zone.” After I did the research on coffee, it was the first time I had ever heard of a healthy coffee. All the people I had talked to in the beginning, no one had ever heard of healthy coffee. So, I was bringing something that is brand new. We were going to be one of the first in the United States, not just Colorado. I was bringing a brand new thing to something that is very old. And that means in terms of my business degrees I got in school a huge opportunity if it works.”
Smith has made a good income from the business, but it gives him an added benefit. He is able to help others fulfill their potential and their dreams. He has always been about people, because that is what drives good business, positive relationships. And that has been his greatest challenge, finding good people. “My challenge is to find good people, and to be around good people and yet cultivate great relationships for the rest of my life, says Smith. “And we can go into any business if I am around good people. It doesn’t matter. We could sell used toothpicks and make a killing. If you have good people and good energy, you will find a way to get it done.”
Getting it done now is the most significant football metaphor that Smith applies to his business. Whether he is on the gridiron or not, he works hard. He stayed in Denver, because he has built a reputation and doesn’t want to have to re-invent himself. People like him because of how he does things. “The way I perform on the football field is how I perform in business. I want to be the person that is accountable and the person that is going to get the job done, just give me some time and it is going to happen. It could be fast. It could be slow, but over time, it is going to happen.” This acumen stems from Holton Buggs, vice president of sales for Organo Gold, who has become Smith’s good friend and mentor. Smith says, ‘He said at a meeting in December 2008, ‘How you do anything is how you do everything.’ “
Smith has long had a high level of achievement and vision, and started learning business lessons early in his life. He says at age 12 he made up his mind to own a Mercedes Benz. He bought his first one in 1999 in Missouri and drove it back to Colorado. While at Southern Missouri State, his late football coach John Lantz, was conducting a goal setting exercise. He asked the players to write down the amount of money they wanted to earn. The young Smith wrote down $30K. Lantz wondered why he had written down such a low figure. Smith explained that where he was from $30K was a lot of money. After arguing with the coach, Smith was convinced to at least write down $50K. This was a long remembered lesson in setting lowered expectations. “I respected him and loved him so much, he believes in me, so I will borrow his belief in me until mine catches up. And my first year in the NFL I made $63K. And I immediately thought back to the conversation I had with him; I thought if I had wrote down $100K, I would have made $100K. But because I only wrote down $50K, I only made $63K. And from that moment on my life changed.”
Life is full of teachable moments, but it requires that we pay attention and begin to create our own vision of our best selves. Generations have thought, I want to have life be better for my children, or their children have thought I want to do better than my parents. When Smith bought his first Mercedes, he thought he was doing okay, until he popped in a cassette of the book Think and Grow Rich. Smith says he still has the Mercedes and Think and Grow Rich; the Napoleon Hill classic study of business success has been a constant companion as he continues his journey. Think and Grow Rich is integral to the Organo Gold culture.
“I had never read the book. But I was listening to it for 10 years. And now I teach the book right now to the people in direct sales network marketing,” said Smith. “I am teaching that book right now to the people in my organization. We are on chapter 12 and 13 right now. We do two chapters every other week. We train on 2 chapters of Think and Grow Rich every other week. If the book has made more millionaires besides the bible, why wouldn’t people study it?”
Smith made millions playing for the Denver Broncos, but he says that he has made seven figures in coffee as well. And he says others can do the same. He is on a different team in a different space now, focusing forward on building a better life for his children, grandchildren and their children. The road has not always been smooth. He made mistakes with money as well as other areas in his life.
Fifteen years ago he faced domestic abuse charges in Douglas County, and has since been lumped in with other NFL players who faced similar charges. “It’s old and the one thing I learned and that I won’t shy away from is how to stay in control of my emotions and me. That is what I learned. That is what I teach people. You can control your emotions. I don’t get too high and don’t get too low when things happen one way or another. You’ll make better decisions,” says Smith. “Everybody is caught up in the heat of the moment and different things happen in life. Life is fast nowadays. Sometimes things happen so fast that you think you don’t have time to respond, and sometimes we just react. And if we can just pause for a second or two and learn to respond, everybody would make better decisions.”
The lessons he has learned in football and in business he imparts to his family and his business team, which has grown to 49,253 Organo Gold independent distributors. His youngest son Roderick Smith Jr. will play football for Colorado State University in the fall. Rod said he asked him for a copy of the Think and Grow Rich workbook which his son pulled off the bookshelf. “He’s 20 years old and he wants a Think and Grow Rich workbook that will be the best gift I can give him this year, because if he actually uses it he will understand how to manifest and how to attract the things to accomplish the dreams and goals that he wants. Because I did it. These are the same principles he will learn that I learned, and he will get real life example from me. And this is perfect for a 20-year-old.
Everything Rod Smith does now is for the future of his family. He says that he doesn’t want his three grandsons and their children to have to work to live. “That’s the way I think to day. That’s all I focus on is my grandson’s kids never having to work. Not that they won’t work, because I want them to have the principles, the respect for working, but not have to work to eat or to work to pay some bills. I want them to work in a space where they can be philanthropists and cause driven, not just, because they are hungry.”
Even NFL and NBA athletes, who from the outside seem blessed with riches, go bankrupt. Smith said that approximately 93 percent of NFL players three to five years after they quit playing have no money. A 2009 article in Sports Illustrated estimated that 78 percent of professional athletes go broke. This happens mostly because they lack the proper information and guidance. As a Bronco, Smith was promoting financial literacy in the locker room. The information has always been in libraries and now it is on the Internet. But the plight of many NFL players is not so different from the armchair athletes who watch them on ESPN; Smith says that 97 percent of Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck.
That is the major reason Smith went into the coffee business, to help people. He gets a good feeling knowing that because he said yes six years ago when a friend pitched Organo Gold to him, he is having a positive impact on the personal economies of countless individuals. “There are two families in my organization that have made over $1 million in this business, and countless others who are making thousands of dollars a month,” says Smith. “Others miss opportunity because they don’t have the proper guidance. There’s no way they could have made that kind of money with a job.” His guides on this journey are the Bible and Think and Grow Rich, which he says is the most under utilized text. He attends the Upper Room UPC church, under pastors Derwood and Nancy Tate. He revealed he also has a book in the germinal stages, “It’s called The Rod Effect…From the Projects to NFL Super Bowl Stardom, and How You Too Can Achieve,” says Smith. It’s going to be eight success tips or steps that are going to be highlighted in that book, all based on dreaming – how to actually manifest your dreams. When he began to look at where he has come from and what he has done, he wanted to share the knowledge, lessons and strategies that got him there. “You’ve got to celebrate…that’s a principle that I want people to understand. Sometimes you have to celebrate the small wins, because when you get the small wins they turn into big big results.”
Big results usually bring huge successes. Smith believes that when we do better our communities are better. Everyone is a work in progress and Smith sees himself as no exception. All people are great, they just have to see themselves that way.
“Sometimes you just need someone to encourage you and talk to you and tell you how great you are. So that is kind of the person I want to be. You don’t have to pat me on the back. You don’t have to give me any credit, and you don’t have to give me any kudos or awards. Just knowing that one day I did or said something that changed someone’s thought processes and they became a better person, and then I won. So I am still about winning. And winning doesn’t mean somebody else has to lose.”