GREENVILLE, Ala. (WSFA) - On Sundays Greenville native Za’Darius Smith usually spends his time tackling opponents on the football field. Friday, he was helping to tackle the coronavirus.
Last week Smith helped to hand out pizzas. This week Smith and his family handed out over 1,000 McDonald’s meals to families with kids in his hometown.
Although he is at his home in Wisconsin, it’s not stopping the linebacker from showing some love to his hometown by giving away free meals.
His mother said Smith wants the Greenville community to know he hasn’t forgotten about them and is supporting them during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We just wanted to give back to the community. We wanted the community to know we were all in this together. That they weren’t by themselves. That he wasn’t brought up to be selfish. That he wanted to give back to the community," said Sharon Smith, Za’Darius’s mother. “He wanted the community to know he feels their pain.”
His mother Sharon says the idea was inspired by one of his grade school teachers.
“He called Mrs. Grayson, they got together, and our first big turnout was Pizza Hut,” said Sharon. “We had at first ordered 500 pizzas, and had to order 200 more - we ended up with 700 pizzas, and [Friday] we’re doing 1,050 McDonald’s bags.”
Friends and family alike came through the lines, exchanging tickets for a hot meal.
The drive was supposed to start at 3 p.m., but with so many people already in line the family started handing out bags early.
Within the first 10 minutes, dozens of cars had already been served.
Greenville Police Chief Justin Lovvorn and his staff also joined in to help during the event, and says seeing his community come together makes him proud to be from Greenville.
“This is just part of Greenville you see every day," said Lovvorn. "The people from here - even the ones that make it big like Za’Darius - they go out and always give back to their community here in Greenville.”
“We’re a pretty tight-knit community, and when one benefits, they try to bring it back to the rest, and this is just another example of that. I can’t say how proud I am of this community and the people in it,” said Lovvorn.
Sharon says the family will continue to hand out meals each week, and shared some words of encouragement from her son.
“His message is we’re all in this together. I ask everybody to keep praying for him, and let God keep him healthy and keep him strong, and maybe next year we’ll be doing something else for the community," she said.
Za’Darius earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl this past season as a member of the Green Bay Packers. He recorded 13.5 sacks, 41 solo tackles, 17 tackles for loss and a forced fumble in 2019.