John Small was anything but small.
The former Academy of Richmond County, Citadel and Atlanta Falcons football star, a first-round pick by the Falcons in 1970, was not only physically imposing at 6-4 and 269 pounds, but he had an oversized heart – especially for kids.
A three-time consensus All-American at the Citadel, after three seasons in Atlanta and several in Detroit he returned to Augusta to raise a family, run a sporting goods store and, mostly, to speak to kids and dream up programs to help at-risk youth. One of those ideas became Christian ministry JKS Team Inc. He also founded a ministry called First Step.
“He was constantly doing for others, promoting youth sporting programs and later intervention programs to help the most troubled,” writes friend David Steele. “He was unashamed of his love for Jesus. His Christian faith meant more to him than the fame he had won in high school, college and pro football.”
Small was remembered this past week, after his death at 66 Dec. 10, as a consummate idea man – and most of his thoughts centered around helping kids of all races.
“He was an idea guy,” said friend Pete May, who knew him at ARC. “He probably called me 10 different times with ideas.”
“We worked together on youth and church-related projects over the years,” Steele wrote to us. “John was a great recruiter for his causes, and few could say no to him. When I went into business, John would regularly drop in to talk about the big ideas he had. He dreamt big. Multimillion-dollar youth camps and national program ideas sprang from John’s brain as regularly as his heartbeat. It’s what he did.”
“We lost a great citizen,” May said. “Augusta has truly lost a citizen who sincerely cared about our community.”
John Small was remembered around the region and nationally as a football player. Here, too. But Augustans are privileged to have known him as so much more than that.
We knew the real John Small. We knew his heart.
And it was big.