Cameron Smith was the sort of large lad who put the hurt on others.
Born at 11 pounds, 2 ounces, Smith was so imposing upon delivery that the doctor told his mother, Suzy Lakata Smith, to "check under his arms for hair. I think we have a man."
Smith continued to grow, pulverizing all comers in youth football and throughout his Granite Bay High School and USC football careers. He would draw a crowd as he grunted his way to something of legendary weight-room prowess. Smith never seemed to wince in pain, feel aches or suffer. He was never floored.
He is now.
Smith is a linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings who has announced that he will sit out this NFL campaign due to a congenital heart condition doctors found after he tested positive for COVID-19.
He wrote on Instagram on Saturday that he will undergo open-heart surgery in the coming weeks to fix a bicuspid aortic valve that he was born with. His aim is to return to football action. To understand Smith's relentless drive is to lead one to believe him. He shall return.
Smith wrote on his social media post, "It is really a blessing that we found this as my heart is severely enlarged and wouldn't have lasted much longer. The Lord works in mysterious ways, but I could really feel him on this one. By no means am I ready to be done playing football. I'm going to attack this like everything else I have in life."
Smith had a fighting spirit even as an infant, a story shared by his mother, living on the Central Coast and tied up in knots in worry. A mother never outgrows her nurturing ways.
"I'm trying hard not to fall apart," Suzy Lakata Smith told The Sacramento Bee on Sunday afternoon. "I have trust in the medical profession and mostly in God. It's so weird because when Cameron was about 3 weeks old, he had a high fever. So we took him to emergency and they did a spinal tap. The doctors couldn't believe how strong he was.
"We spent three days in the hospital waiting to find out if he had meningitis. He didn't, but I remember crying and telling him he had to be strong and survive because he had a big life ahead of him, that he was going to do great things. Crazy that I just remembered that."