John Small was inaptly named. He was a giant of a man with a heart to match.
I wandered in to John Small’s Locker Room, the sporting goods store he operated after his retirement near North Leg and Wrightsboro roads soon after moving to Augusta in 1973. I’m a big man but I felt small next to John.
It didn’t take long to discover that John was a man of faith. He constantly was doing for others, promoting youth sporting programs and later intervention programs to help the most troubled. 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.
Money slipped through his hands, lots of money for the day; too often he trusted folks who preyed on athletes. It was a different era; professional sports teams did little then to educate talented young men about finance. Shysters preyed on men such as John who assumed the values he learned at Richmond Academy and the Citadel were respected in the big leagues.
Sadly, John got hurt often and deeply in business and in body. Few who knew John in those days knew the pain he lived with daily. He hid his pain well and his resolve was always greater than his pain.
We worked together on youth- and church-related projects over the years. 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.
If he had the resources of a modern ball player he would have spent every penny on others. For reasons I hope to learn in the next life, John had to rely on others for funding. Perhaps it can be explained in the relationships John had all over the country. I know there were hundreds, if not thousands, whom John touched. When he sought my help it inspired me. His passion, his dedication to youth sports programs and his deep faith always encouraged me.
His big heart was stilled Monday, but the dreams he shared with so many will live on. John’s pain is no more. I’m happy for him. He’s face-to-face with the God he loved so dearly. I just wish I could be there when St. Peter plays his highlight reel. I bet he was one fine football player.
I know he was a better man.