An ESPN magazine story featured on the front page of ESPN.com Tuesday may make it more difficult for Georgia tailback Musa Smith to just be known as a football player.
The story entitled "The Good Son'' chronicled the alleged ties of Smith's father, Kelvin Smith — also known as Abdul Muhaimin — to terrorists.
Smith's father pled guilty to three counts of making false statements to FBI agents and one count of destroying evidence — four assault rifles — being sought by the FBI. He was sentenced in 1999 to one year and one day in jail.
It was alleged that the elder Smith's farm in Pennsylvania had been used as a training ground for Islamic extremists plotting to assassinate world leaders and bomb New York landmarks. Ten years ago, the New York Daily News' front-page story on the training camp ran under a headline which read "Camp Terror.''
One week before the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy, any talk of ties to terrorists is a potential hot topic, so Musa Smith faced reporters after practice Tuesday who were not asking questions about football.
Said Smith of the story, which he said he had not yet read: "It doesn't have anything to do with football. That's all I'm going to say about it. It's nothing about football and it's personal.''
Smith says he doesn't worry how fans, especially fans at road games, might react to the story, but he admitted he might have to address the issue of his father's past with his teammates.
"When it comes to that point, when I cross that bridge, then yeah,'' he said.
The elder Smith had not spoken with reporters for 10 years before agreeing to be interviewed by ESPN magazine.
While the allegations and history of Smith's father were old news in the Bloomfield, Pa., town where Musa Smith was raised and at West Perry High School in Elliottsburg, Pa., where he became a prep All-America football player, that history was unknown to Georgia coaches who recruited him and unknown to the current coaching staff.
"Musa has been here, going on a third year, and has been nothing but a model guy for us,'' Coach Mark Richt said Tuesday. "He's a team man, a hard worker. I see Musa Smith as a Georgia Bulldog and that's it.''
Richt had been briefed on the ESPN story but had not yet read the story when he spoke with reporters after practice Tuesday night.
Richt said he wants to talk with Smith about the story.
"All I can say is what I know about him as a person,'' Richt said. "I'm glad he's on our team and I'm glad he's here at Georgia. He's a good man.''
The ESPN story focused on Musa Smith being a much-admired boy growing up in his hometown. It told of how he is mobbed by autograph seekers when he returns home.
Kelvin Smith turned to Islam in 1980 — two years before Musa was born — and, according to the ESPN story, in 1992 welcomed a group of Arab Muslims to his farm for training at a camp that also had been used by Boy Scouts.
Within a year, six of those trainees were arrested and later convicted of plotting to blow up several New York targets.
Kelvin Smith claimed to have no knowledge of the intentions of those training on his property. On Feb. 18, 1993 — eight days before the first Trade Center bombing — Smith was contacted by the FBI and informed the trainees were suspected of being anti-American terrorists.
The elder Smith was convicted for falsely telling the FBI all weapons on his property belonged to him, and he later admitted he threw four assault rifles off a bridge into the Delaware River to keep them from FBI agents.
Smith told the magazine he panicked when he lied to the agents.
After Sept. 11, Kelvin Smith was again questioned by the FBI but not charged with having a connection to the attacks.
Through it all, Musa Smith has tried to lead a life separate from the allegations and convictions that tarnished his father's reputation.
Said Musa Smith Tuesday: "It's not an issue and it doesn't have to deal with me.''
The magazine quoted a critic of the elder Smith, Wildlife Service officer Dick Hart, in support of Musa Smith.
"Musa deserves a shot,'' Hart told the magazine. "His father's transgressions shouldn't hold back a good kid.''
Charles Odum is the beat writer for Dawg Post in Athens. He has over 20 years of experience covering Georgia football. He can be reached here: CEOdum@aol.com
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