EAGAN, Minn. — Harrison Smith is known as ‘The Hitman,’ a moniker he has earned for making plays all over the field during the first six years of his career.
It turns out those tackles by the All-Pro safety do a lot more than help the Vikings win football games.
Smith will soon launch the his annual BIG Tackles campaign, an initiative that raises money for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities with each stop he makes on an opponent.
Fans can pledge money per tackle that Smith racks up, with all of the funds going to BBBS.
“It’s great because I get to go out and have fun, and if I’m playing well then it’s going to help them even more,” Smith said. “It also builds some excitement for fans watching, they can kind of get involved and feel kind of like they’re out there too when I’m making plays. They are making an impact as well.”
Smith raised more than $16,000 in 2016 during his first season of the program, and increased that total to nearly $42,000 during the 2017 season in which he made his third straight Pro Bowl.
The money raised for BBBs helps the organization coordinate activities and educational programs for Bigs and Littles, which is a match of an adult who mentors and befriends a child or teenager.
Smith said he’s ready to surpass the amount raised in 2017.
“We always want it to be more,” Smith said. “I don’t want to set hard goals but obviously we want to keep ramping this thing up.”
Smith hosted a handful of Bigs and Littles during Vikings Verizon Training Camp at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center as the group watched walk-through and met with Smith for more than 15 minutes while he signed autographs and interacted with the matches.
“It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime experience for these kids,” said Jennifer Severson, the director of marketing and brand management for BBBS. “Harrison is so attentive to them, and there’s not a kid that attends any of our events with Harrison that doesn’t get an autograph and a personal conversation. He is so genuine and they appreciate it so much.”
Jayvionte Jackson, a 13-year-old Little, was in attendance with his Big, Matt Jennissen.
The two took on Smith on the field as Jennissen threw a touchdown to Jayvionte, who used a double move to get past Smith.
“It was too easy,” Jackson said with a smile.
Added Jennissen: “[Jayvionte] came up with the route, it was a double move.”
Smith responded on the next attempt to bat the pass away.
“We split one to one. He got me on that little in-cut there, he had some good moves,” Smith said. “He said he’s going to come take my spot one day so I told him to keep working and go for it.”
The group of Bigs and Littles also checked out the kids zone at TCO Stadium, ate lunch and received autographs from a handful of Smith’s teammates.
“It was awesome. I know he has a lot of stuff going on, but he still takes his time out to support us,” Jayvionte said of Smith.
Added Jennissen: “I think it’s really impressive for someone of his caliber to take that much time out of his day.”
Smith said he’s more than happy to help give back to an organization he became involved with in college. He hosted kickball and dodgeball games in recent years at Winter Park, and attends multiple events each year with the program.
And he’ll make even more of an impact this fall when he racks up the tackles — and the funds — for BBBS.
“I’m just proud to be a partner with Big Brothers Big Sisters Twin Cities because they do phenomenal things,” Smith said. “If you can get involved in any way, whether it’s mentoring or supporting [them] financially or with your time, it’s a great organization that really impacts lives.”