By Justin Rodriguez
Section 9 Football Insider
The rough mornings have become a little easier for Pine Bush junior Chauncey Smith. However, he often still finds himself lying in bed with tears welling up in his eyes.
The loss of his older brother, Roland, is still painful. It is still fresh. The Pine Bush community was left reeling when Roland LaShain Smith III died on January 30th of this year after collapsing during a pick-up basketball game with friends at Crispell Middle School.
Roland Smith, a former Pine Bush football and basketball player, was good looking, popular and outgoing. He was only 20 when he died.
“I think about my brother every single day,” Chauncey Smith said after participating in the Hudson Valley 7-on-7 Shootout at Warwick High School on Saturday. “I used to cry every day, but now I’m not crying as much. It is like a piece of me is gone. It’s crazy.”
(Chauncey Smith with his brother, Roland)
There are certainly bad days, but Chauncey Smith is using the tragedy as an inspiration. Through it all, Smith has illustrated toughness and grace, always trying to flash his signature smile to keep his family and friends at ease.
“Chauncey hasn’t talked about losing his brother too much,” Pine Bush coach Jim Wright said. “I let the kids disclose things in their personal lives on their own and it is a process. Chauncey is a real positive kid and he works hard. I give him a lot of credit because I don’t know if anyone knows what he is experiencing unless you went through it. I think football is an outlet for him.”
Chauncey and Roland Smith shared a love and passion for sports. It served as a bond for the brothers throughout their lives and Chauncey is dedicating the rest of his career to Roland. Chauncey will wear a T-shirt that reads “In Loving Memory of Roland Smith” under his gear and before the season will have the same tattoo inscribed on one of his arms.
This could be a breakout season for Smith, who missed most of last year with a dislocated elbow. He is a speedy runner and will be featured in Pine Bush’s Wing-T attack. Now healthy, Smith is also expected to make plays in the secondary for last year’s Section 9 Class AA runner-ups.
“Chauncey is going to be a huge asset for us,” Wright said. “He was performing well for us last year before he got hurt. Chauncey brings a lot to the table and has a lot of potential. He can be a game changer; he is one of those types of athletes. We are real excited about him on both sides of the ball.”
Smith was at a Pine Bush basketball game when he heard that his brother collapsed at nearby Crispell Middle School. Chauncey Smith said that he was told that Roland was “unconscious.” However, when he arrived to the hospital, Chauncey learned that his brother had passed away.
According to Chauncey Smith, his brother was healthy, but had an enlarged heart. Roland Smith, a 2015 Pine Bush graduate, is described by his friends and family as a gracious and generous young man who always had your back. He enjoyed making people laugh and spending time with his girlfriend and other loved ones.
He was competitive, especially when it came to a two-on-two basketball game with his three brothers. A student at SUNY Orange, he also liked to go fishing, play Ping-Pong, and sing and dance. Football will provide an outlet for his younger brother Chauncey.
The Hudson Valley Shootout marked one of the first times that he was on the field since his brother passed. He said football was a good diversion and thanked his teammates for their support since Roland’s passing.
“Anything Chauncey needs on or off the field, we are there for him,” Pine Bush linebacker Frank Wise said. “We are his brothers. The team is trying to help him focus on football and he is doing a good job.”
Added Pine Bush quarterback Haakon Meland: “Chauncey knows we got him at all times.”
This could very well be an emotional season for Smith. The memories of his brother still flood his mind throughout the day. There is still sadness, but he takes some solace in the fact that Roland is still with him.
Chauncey especially felt his presence on the sunny football field on Saturday and he tells you that Roland will always watch over him.
“He is my motivation now,” Chauncey Smith said. “I’m trying to make it big for my brother. I want to be a big-time football player because I know that will make him proud.”
Follow Justin Rodriguez on Twitter at jrods9insider; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org