Before he was protecting Tom Brady’s blind side with the Buccaneers, Donovan Smith was dominating with the Golden Eagles of Owings Mills High School.
"Got to talk about Baltimore," Smith exclaimed during his Super Bowl LV press conference.
From Baltimore to the Bucs. From Tollgate Road to Tampa Bay. Smith’s journey to Super Bowl LV started in Baltimore County.
"Good school, a lot of good people in there," he said.
Smith graduated from O.M.H.S. in 2011 after turning around the program.
"Oh, man. When I got to Owings Mills we were not good," he laughed.
The Eagles were in the middle of a 55 game losing streak. Donovan’s sophomore season, his first with the program after moving from Long Island, they went winless. He was a big part of changing the culture.
"We had to work at it and we chipped away," he remembers. "We were able to get our first win and then second, third and just packed on from there."
"He was a two-way starter and he kind of pushed kids because just having a guy of that ability in practice was always something interesting," said former Owings Mills head coach Steve Lurz.
Donovan’s former coaches could tell early on that the big man was destined for big things.
"His personality is infectious," said former Owings Mills coach Joe Vales. "He’s the type of guy people want to gravitate to."
That’s just what happens when Donovan comes back to his alma mater. The students gather around. And he loves it.
"It’s not often you got this 6-foot-6, 300 pound guy coming into your building wearing Tampa gear," said Smith's former teacher at Owings Mills, Tom Blumenauer. "As soon as they see him, 'What did it take? How do I get there?' And he had no problem [talking with them]."
"I like to give back," Smith said. "Kind of give them a nudge that like, 'You can make it out of here. You can go be something from this place.'"
What would a Buccaneers Super Bowl win mean?
"To me it would mean the world," said Smith. "It just proves all of the hard work - the blood, sweat and tears that you put in behind the clock - it makes it all worth it."
"It would just be great for the community," said Vales. "Just great for Owings Mills. Great for Baltimore County. Great for the State of Maryland."
Whenever the Owings Mills football team takes the field next, they will do so in brand new uniforms thanks to Smith. He helped his Eagles get fresh sets of home, road and alternate jerseys.