Roquan Smith is giving thanks to his hometown.
Smith, currently the NFL leader in solo tackles and tackles-for-loss, wanted to give back to the place where he came from. In cooperation with the local Boys and Girls Club, Smith bought 500 Thanksgiving meals for residents of Macon County, Georgia, the rural community where he was raised.
"I feel like I'm in a great position in my life to give back to many others," said Smith. "I know with COVID, it's really tough on a lot of families with food and things of that nature, especially down in small towns. I felt like it was my job to feed as many families as I can down in the area where I grew up."
Macon County comprises four rural communities, including Smith's hometown Marshallville, and roughly 13,000 people. Despite the state of Georgia's massive growth in recent decades, the county has seen population loss over the last decade due to a struggling economy. Smith noted that Marshallville didn't even have stoplights when he was growing up.
A third of the county's residents live under the poverty line, including nearly half of its children. Smith grew up in a working-class household and cited his childhood experiences for making him conscious of the community's struggles.
"I think that Thanksgiving is about thanks to others but also about giving," said Smith. "I just feel like it's a great time of the year to be able to give to the less fortunate or individuals that may never be able to pay you back."
Smith's talent as a football player afforded him opportunities rarely afforded to children in struggling communities, leading him to the University of Georgia and the NFL. However, he hasn't forgotten the people who helped him get to where he is.
"There are many people in that community that have helped me growing up," said Smith, "so I just feel that it's only right, during a time such as Thanksgiving when you're in the giving spirit."