Troy Smith’s Charity Auction Inspired by Personal Struggles with Mental Health, Desire to Give Back to Ohio State

By Dan Hope on August 29, 2022 at 8:35 am
Troy Smith in 2015

Ohio State’s most recent Heisman Trophy winner is offering Buckeye fans the opportunity to hang out with him at an Ohio State football game this fall while helping fund mental health research in the process.

An auction launched by 2006 Heisman winner Troy Smith over the weekend is offering fans the chance to bid on packages for Ohio State’s four biggest home games this season – this week’s game against Notre Dame as well as the Buckeyes’ Sept. 24 game against Wisconsin, Oct. 22 game against Iowa and Nov. 26 game against Michigan – which will give winning bidders the opportunity to hang out with Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., Mike Doss and other Buckeye greats on gameday.

Four packages are being offered for each game through Granted, an auction platform that offers fan experiences with athletes and entertainers. The Ultimate Heisman Experience, for which bids start at $10,000 for each game, will allow two fans to watch the game with Smith and Ginn inside the Huntington Club at the 50-yard line. The Gold Experience (which has an opening bid of $5,000) will include AA level sideline tickets, while the Silver Experience (starting at $2,500) includes A level sideline tickets. All four experiences for each game, including the Bronze Experience (starting at $1,500) will come with two tickets to Doss’ pregame tailgate, access to a postgame party with Smith and Ginn at TownHall and Mandrake Rooftop and a collective NFT.

A percentage of the proceeds from each auction – Smith said it will be at least 10% of each winning bid – will be donated to the Jeffrey Schottenstein Program for Resilience, a mental health research fund at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center.

Smith said the auction is inspired by a desire to give back and make people happy.

“I don't know which other way to be more positive and happy than experiencing Buckeye football on a Saturday,” Smith told Eleven Warriors. “We don't usually give out a day in the life of how we kick it during the actual football season. But with the NFT and with the resilience program, we want to figure out different ways to give back and accumulate fans and people who think just like us.”

Smith set up the auction to benefit Schottenstein’s resilience fund for multiple reasons. For one, Smith has been close to Schottenstein and his family since he played for the Buckeyes. Even more personally, Smith has dealt with his own mental health struggles throughout his life.

The former Ohio State quarterback says that goes back to when he was a child growing up in Cleveland, where he spent time in foster care. More recently, Smith struggled to come to terms with how his football career unfolded, as he never achieved consistent success at the professional level despite his excellence at Ohio State.

Opening up about his mental health, however, has helped Smith find a better balance in his life. And he now wants to encourage others who are struggling to do the same.

“We want to get rid of the stigma, and me understanding that it's okay to be vulnerable, it's okay that when and if you do have problems, to have the ability to talk to somebody about it, and for you to feel comfortable in that setting,” Smith said. “We want to create a specific lane where the vulnerabilities around mental health and being able to talk about it is no longer hush-hush. It’s no longer a bad thing to feel. It's okay. And we give them different ways and different outlets to achieve those things.

“In whichever ways that you want to cut it, we all deal with mental health … we all go through similar things, and now it's time to make it okay to talk about these things and get them out there.”

The launch of Smith’s auction comes less than a month after Ryan and Nina Day donated $1 million to launch a mental health resilience fund of their own at Ohio State, and Smith said Day’s efforts to promote mental wellness have made him even more proud to be a Buckeye.

“We can't have enough avenues for people to feel like they need to get these things off their chest. So we stand behind him, just like we were standing behind anybody else. And I think it's tremendous that he's doing it,” Smith said of Day. “I got all types of respect for him.”

After his own football career ended, Smith said there was a period of time where he didn’t want to be around the sport at all because of his bitterness about how things went for him in the NFL. But Smith says he has a new perspective now.

“I needed to get it off my chest that I was doing certain things that led to everything that happened to me, and it wasn't the sport that cheated me,” Smith said. “The bitterness stemmed from delusions of grandeur. Thinking that I was better than what I really was or whichever versions of success that I wanted to be microwavable, and it didn't happen … It was all me.”

More than anything, though, Smith says he’s learned to let go of the past and look forward to the future. He’s made his family the biggest priority in his life as his 14-year-old daughter begins ninth grade and his 10-year-old son starts fifth grade.

“Family is everything,” Smith said. “We got a chance to go back to the basics with how we communicate and take in specific family cores and values. So the family aspect is everything. Your attitude, specifically, that's the only thing you can and seriously have some control over. So just getting back to the basics. Nothing really, really complex about the plan that we're putting together but more respect, family and love.”

Smith impressed by current Buckeyes

While Smith said he didn’t always enjoy going back to Ohio Stadium to watch the Buckeyes play because of his mental health, he’s “extremely excited” to be at the Shoe this weekend for the Ohio State/Notre Dame game. And he has high hopes for what the current Buckeyes will accomplish on the field this year.

“I feel so much better, so much lighter this year,” Smith said. “This is how I know, it ain’t got nothing to do with me, but just this much, much more joyous feel, this is how I know we gonna bring home a championship this year.”

Smith also hopes this is the last year he can be called Ohio State’s most recent Heisman Trophy winner, as he believes C.J. Stroud is ready to win the Buckeyes’ eighth Heisman Trophy this year.

“Yeah man, are you serious?” Smith said when asked if he was ready to see Ohio State’s Heisman drought end. “I was ready last year, man. Because it really was going to end last year. You gotta go through ups and downs, and it makes you the player and the person and the man or woman that you're going to be. But yeah, man, I would love to have another Heisman brother. That would be major.”

Smith was as impressed as anyone as he watched Stroud become Ohio State’s latest star quarterback in his first season leading the Buckeyes’ offense.

“He throws probably the best-looking spiral in the game right now collegiately. To me, his decision-making is a cut above everybody else,” Smith said of Stroud. “We've been blessed. Obviously, he's been an incredible student of the game, sitting behind certain guys and learning. But now it is his time, and all of the stars are aligning, and it looks tremendously bright as a Buckeye fan and for his future, and I got nothing but good thoughts and prayers for him approaching everything with the season, and how he's going to be a professional as well.”

As Stroud comes closer to becoming Ohio State’s third first-round NFL draft pick at quarterback in a five-year span along with Dwayne Haskins and Justin Fields, Smith has enjoyed watching Ohio State’s recent quarterbacks rewrite the school record books.

“It's amazing to see,” Smith said. “The quarterback position here has changed tremendously. The actual position in its entirety has changed. So it's cool to see the evolution. And I love winning football. So I just like to see it.”

When he watches college football now, Smith said the biggest thing that stands out to him is how much faster the game has become.

“Honestly, some of the most glaring things right away is the size of the offensive linemen. And when I say the size, I mean specifically like these guys are in shape to the point where sometimes they look like tight ends,” Smith said. “Even go back to like the Orlando Pace days, like, these guys are gargantuan. They were huge. Not to say that these dudes aren’t big now, but I think because specifically up front, the transformation of the offensive linemen’s bodies and the defensive linemen’s bodies, it has sped the game up and made the game incredibly athletic. You've always had to make decisions on the fly, but I mean, you got to be thinking at warp speed right now because they're flying around out there.”

Smith is happy the NCAA is now allowing college athletes to profit off of their name, image and likeness, as he believes players should have been permitted to make money all along.

“I do believe that when we were doing our thing and when I was doing my thing, it was a level of ignorance that was accepted. And now that veil has been lifted and the actual guys who are presenting and giving the meat and potatoes to the programs, they’re getting what they deserve,” Smith said. “I know they're going to come in whichever ways and try to morph and shape it into ways that they can make you conform. But it's okay, man. It’s okay for things to be the wild, wild west until we get some decent rules. And these guys are reaping the benefit.”

Smith is also happy to see the Glenville-to-Ohio State pipeline reemerging with the recent commitment of linebacker Arvell Reese, who will follow in the footsteps of fellow Tarbloooders like Smith, Ginn, Cardale Jones and Marshon Lattimore when he becomes a Buckeye next year.

“It’s everything. It is the basis of who I am. It is the reason why I got a chance to see better chances and opportunities in life,” Smith said of his time at Glenville. “We all go through things. And the type of breed that comes out of my area is special because of the things that we all go through.”

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