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April 08, 2024 | Tom Ballard

No Athlete Left Behind holding a “Sneaker Ball” this Friday

The nonprofit is focused on providing mentors and role models for at-risk high school athletes.

The webpage for a nonprofit organization named No Athlete Left Behind (NALB) captures its mission in the first few sentences.

“By the time Powell-native Lee Smith first stepped on the field as a professional football player, he knew a thing or two about second chances. As the oldest brother of three and son to an alcoholic father (who died at age 46), Lee had very few male role models in his early life. The wayward tight end had already blown through 50 of them. By the time he was drafted by the New England Patriots in 2011, Lee had already flunked out of one university, gotten a DUI, and had an alcohol problem of his own.”

Today, Smith is the force behind NALB and the owner of the Triple F Elite Sports Training facility in the Solway area of Knox County.

“When you didn’t have proper role models as a young child,” he says, “it’s just so easy to slide off the rails, when there’s not someone there you respect to grab you.”

Smith said there were 50 athletes in the first iteration of the program, and three signed to play for a Power 5 school. High school coaches nominate student-athletes – both males and females – for the program where they receive training and conditioning at Triple F to become top performers in their sport, but more importantly, they find healthy role models in faith and themselves. They are expected to attend workshops like one on finances.

The focus is on at-risk student-athletes, particularly from East Knoxville, Smith says, adding, “I’ve seen so much growth in these young men and women.”

Now, after a two-year journey to launch the fitness facility and the nonprofit, NALB is hosting its inaugural “Sneaker Ball” from 7 to 10 p.m. EDT this Friday at the Pavilion at Hunter Valley Farms.

“This year is just getting the word out about the nonprofit,” Smith says.

There is a limited number of tickets available at this link.

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