Smith, the Arizona Cardinals' fullback, grew up with a mother who was a foster parent. And she believed in what she was doing so strongly that she was always willing to add more foster children, even when she got past 20.
"I think the most we had at one time was 22," Smith told reporters today. "That doesn't include her six children."
Smith says that his mom, Sheryll Smith, saw foster parenting as the way to teach her six biological children that they should be thankful for what they have and willing to give to those who have less.
"I never really understood why my mother did it when I was growing up," Smith said. "As I got older, I realized that there are a lot of people on this earth that are less fortunate. For my mom to have open arms and nurture children that weren't even hers was a great experience. They were from all over the country. It was a tremendous experience. It was a different upbringing, but it was very good for me."
Smith says he's taken his mother's lessons to heart, and he thinks he's become the kind of man his mother wanted him to be.
"I had to learn how to share pretty quickly. It was very unique," Smith said. "Growing up the way I did gives you a soft heart and I think the world needs more people like that."
Sheryll Smith told Terrelle in April that she had a dream that he was going to play in the Pro Bowl or the Super Bowl. But she didn't live to see her dream come true: Sheryll died last month after a long battle with breast cancer.
"She was diagnosed in 2005," Smith said. "Our father passed away in 2004 from bone marrow cancer. She was feeling bad after he passed and we figured she was just grieving at first. But as time went on we realized it wasn't that. My sister is a nurse practitioner so she had her go in and get looked at. ... They found out she had a rare form of breast cancer. ... They gave her a short time to live and she managed to live four and a half years. It would be great if she could be here now and see all of this. I know she is looking down on me, but it would be great if she was here."
On Super Bowl Sunday Smith won't have his mom there with him, but he will be able to hear her voice.
"I still have voice-mail messages that she left me on my phone," Smith said. "When I am having a rough day I listen to them. They get me through the day."
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