MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — An NFL running back who got his start in Mobile is proving it’s never too late to learn how to swim.
“I made a promise to my grandmother that if she would quit smoking then I would learn how to swim,” Ito Smith said in a video posted by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Strong4Life on Facebook.
Smith, who played football at McGill-Toolen, made that promise years ago to his grandmother but never fulfilled his end of the bargain.
“I tried to push this seven years,” Smith said. “She’d been stopped smoking. I pushed it off, and I was like, ‘Hey, I gotta keep my word.'”
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Strong4Life partnered with the YMCA in the Atlanta area to teach kids to swim.
Smith — keeping his promise to his grandmother — took classes with a group of kids ranging in age from 7 to 12, proving there’s no shame in learning to swim at an older age.
“Ito is definitely a great positive influence on the kids,” YMCA swim instructor Johnny Booth said.
Smith, 25, spent three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, who drafted Smith in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft coming out of Southern Mississippi.
WKRG News 5 reached out to Smith, who said he’s still improving. Smith says the most important takeaway is it’s never too late to learn. He said his efforts to learn how to swim have even inspired one of his cousins to do the same thing.
According to Strong4Life, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional death in kids ages 5 to 14.