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Like ‘ChuckStrong’, Former Butler Center Andrew Smith Inspired Us

Image Courtesy of the Smith Family
Image Courtesy of the Smith Family /

Just like “Chuck-Strong” and Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, former Butler basketball center Andrew Smith is an inspiration to us all.

While we all wish the outcome would be drastically different, the 25-year-old bravely passed away on Tuesday after over a two-year fight with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

As a three-year starter and member of consecutive Final Four teams, Smith truly personifies what it means to be a Butler Bulldog:

"The Butler Way…demands commitment, denies selfishness,accepts reality, yet seeks improvement everydaywhile putting the team above self"

As a freshman on the 2009-10 Butler Final Four team, Smith only played one minute in the National Championship Game against Duke. His stats for his first collegiate season read 1.0 ppg, 1.3 rpg, and 4.9 mpg in 24 games.

Yet, Smith got better. Smith improved.

Then as a sophomore on the 2010-2011 Butler Final Four team, Smith was the team’s starting center in the National Championship game against Connecticut.

Photo: The Associated Press
Photo: The Associated Press /

He went from seldom used reserve to one of the team’s key frontcourt players–having gone from playing just one minute to playing 29 minutes on the nation’s biggest stage. His stats for his second collegiate season read 8.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg, and 23.9 mpg in 38 games.

The 6-foot-11, 243-pound big man went onto become an Academic All-American and upperclassman leader for his Bulldogs teams.

However, after a long hard fight, Smith just passed away to a despicable disease–one that has already claimed a long list of victims.

There’s no question that everyone has had someone they know negatively impacted or killed by cancer–myself included. Whether it’s Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, Butler’s Andrew Smith, there are numerous examples of great people who have been stricken with this deadly disease.

Make no mistake about it though…People like Chuck Pagano. People like Andrew Smith. Those are life’s real tough guys.

They’re tougher than most of us ever will be.

While I have the fortune of covering football players–who are gridiron warriors and regarded as our modern day gladiators, it’s people like Andrew Smith who truly embody the word “tough”.

Smith was “Bulldog tough” and in real life was a spitting image of the logo he used to so proudly represent on the court.

He fought everyday for his life for over the last two years.

Against insurmountable odds.

Think about that.

While Smith eventually passed away because of cancer, the disease never actually “beat” him.

Having died of cancer himself a little over a year before Smith, the late great Stuart Scott of ESPN so defiantly put it:

"“When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer,” said Scott at the 2014 ESPY Awards. “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”"

Smith may be gone–and gone way too soon at that, but he certainly will never be forgotten. Not by his beloved wife Samantha. Not by his family. Not by his friends, coaches, or teammates, as he was more than simply a basketball player.

By all indications, he was a special person who lived his life the right way and touched lives, and that’s ultimately the legacy he’ll leave behind:

He’ll always be remembered in the halls and hardwood of Hinkle, and most importantly, inspire our hearts.

Perhaps former Butler head coach Brad Stevens (who hadn’t previously tweeted in 299 days), said it best regarding Smith: