Humble Beginnings to Humble Success
By Christina Edney
Star sports journalist Marty Smith ’98 credits Radford roots for his success. If you ask Marty Smith ’98 what comes to mind when he hears “Radford University,” he doesn’t hesitate.
“I had some of the best times of my life here. I made some of the best friends in my life here. I met the love of my life here,” he says.
With a humble upbringing in Giles County, Virginia, Smith trusted nearby Radford University to equip him with the education needed to reach his dreams. His post-graduate professional success confirms his time as a Highlander did just that; he now works for ESPN as a sports journalist, telling stories of some of the biggest names in athletics. A quick Google search shows him side by side with the likes of PGA legend Tiger Woods, University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban and former NFL standout Tim Tebow. Smith’s experience reporting on professional sports is vetted and extensive.
From a very young age, I’ve been captivated by winning and losing and everything that comes with that,” Smith said. “I say to my kids all the time, ‘you’re going to lose a lot more in this life than you win.’ Being able to process that and use it as fuel. It’s such an important part of your path and your journey.”
While Smith’s love for sports began at a young age, he explains how his time at Radford University made his current career possible.
“I was afforded opportunities at Radford that I don’t know I would have gotten anywhere else,” Smith said. “I was given a lot of responsibility, and it’s benefited me my entire career and my entire life. It really prepared me for what was to come.”
Smith is continuing to reap the benefits of his hard work and Radford University education, even today. In May 2021, ESPN extended his contract with the company in a multi-year agreement. ESPN Senior Vice President of Production Lee Fitting calls Smith a “fantastic teammate” with the “ability to build relationships and get to the heart of the story.”
Smith has returned to his alma mater several times throughout the years, most recently to join in the virtual experience for the Together campaign. In his most recent visit, Smith shared with campaign organizers why Radford remains an influential part of his journey.
These days, Smith walks through campus in his signature look: a designer suit paired with an unlikely, but appropriate, choice of witty socks and tennis shoes. There is no mistaking his tailored threads, his heavy accent or his allegiance to Radford University and Southwest Virginia. Through a repertoire of stories ranging from NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. to country music star Eric Church, Smith still holds many of his favorite memories right here in Radford.
“I love this place,” Smith said. “I am passionate about the New River Valley, I’m very passionate about Appalachia, and I’m very passionate about Radford University. Each of those things shaped who I am. I’ve been blessed to go around the world. I’ve been to countries I can’t even pronounce, but I’m forever rooted right here. It’s who I am and who I’m going to be.”