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The outpouring of grief from fans and teammates since former Saints star defender Will Smith was shot to death Saturday night (April 9) is a testament to his leadership and his athletic ability. As former Saints linebacker Scott Shanle said in an eloquent message posted on Twitter Sunday, “you were our captain, our rock, and anchor during our run, and I appreciate all the little things you did to help us succeed.”

No. 91 will always be remembered for his skill and focus on the football field, especially during the Saints’ Super Bowl season. No fan could forget the kiss he planted on his biceps after a sack or seeing him run the length of the field on Tracy Porter’s pick six in Miami.

As important as those moments are, Mr. Smith gave our community much more than that. Unlike many players, he stayed in New Orleans after his Saints career ended. His wife Racquel is a Louisiana native, and the two of them made themselves an integral part of this community.

After news that both of them had been shot during what police said was an auto accident that turned violent, several groups they have helped posted tributes.

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NEW ORLEANS — Drew Brees said he felt “sad for New Orleans” but also “angry at New Orleans” in the wake of former teammate Will Smith‘s death in a shooting late Saturday night following a traffic accident.

Like New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton did on Monday and many others have done over the past 48 hours, Brees talked passionately on WWL Radio on Monday night about the overwhelming amount of gun violence in New Orleans and elsewhere.

Brees was asked what could come out of Smith’s situation to possibly help and to keep people from reacting to incidents like this with, “Oh, that’s New Orleans.” His answer lasted nearly five full minutes:

“You have to find a way for something positive to result out of this. As difficult as that sounds right now because it’s so tragic and we’re all so torn up about it, you have to find a way to make this a catalyst for positive change. I think that’s part of how we can all remember Will’s legacy is that he had as big an impact as when he was here on this earth as he’s gonna have when he’s no longer here.

“You know, there were so many emotions when I first heard what happened. And I’ll be honest with you, part of my emotions was I was angry. I was sad for New Orleans, and I also was angry at New Orleans. Because I feel like this is a problem that’s been around for a long time. And it’s not just New Orleans, it’s nationwide. It’s worldwide. It’s the way that people treat people. And somehow along the way, we’ve all become desensitized to the fact that this stuff happens every day and it’s OK, or we can kind of just move on from it as if it’s gonna happen and it’s part of the way things are and there’s nothing we can really do about it. And listen, it’s overwhelming.

“It’s overwhelming when you think about this epidemic, or this problem, of young, mainly young men, killing young men for no apparent reason. In many cases, it’s drugs, it’s gang violence, it’s different things. But then you have an instance like this where it’s a traffic accident. I don’t know the exact details around it but two guys get out of car and next thing you know one of them pulls out a .45 and not only is he shooting the guy he’s arguing with, but he goes to shoot at everybody in the car, including his wife and who knows, it could have been the rest of his family in that car. What that tells me is that the person who’s pulling the trigger in many cases has no regard for the life that he’s about to try to take. And he also has no regard for his own life, because there’s consequences with that and they have to recognize those consequences.

“What that tells me is that too many of these people don’t have any hope, and what’s the source of that? Well I think it’s a lot of things. I think that too many of these young men, and I say ‘young men’ because that’s the majority, that’s the vast majority … young men probably feel like they don’t have a purpose, like they have been abandoned, whether it be by their family, the lack of a father or the lack of a male role model in their life, that they feel like they don’t have an opportunity to better themselves or better their family in life. ‘Nobody cares about me in school, I’m not gonna get a great education, I’m not gonna have a chance to go to college, I’m not gonna have the chance to break the cycle of poverty within my family. The only thing I can resort to, the only family that I have is a gang. The only opportunity I have to make money or be successful in life is to deal drugs.’ And all those things — listen, there’s so many things — but all those things culminate to this attitude or this mindset that, ‘This is the only thing I have to live for and this is my reality.’ And that, I feel like we can change.

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NEW ORLEANS — The outcry, the passion, the anger, the sadness and the frustration over gun violence in New Orleans has been as loud as ever in the wake of former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith‘s shooting death late Saturday night.

But nothing has changed for Saints cornerback and New Orleans West Bank native Keenan Lewis, who has been spreading that same message for years.

Lewis told that his desire to help his hometown community was one of the reasons why he came back to New Orleans as a free agent in 2013. And it has been a mission of his charitable foundation to show youth they can take a different path.

Lewis said he intends to hold a pop-up camp at a local park this weekend, even if he has to just pull kids off the street. He later challenged others to join him on Instagram.

“It’s not my message because of what happened this weekend,” said Lewis, whose brother-in-law was shot and killed in New Orleans in December, along with his brother-in-law’s pregnant girlfriend.

“You’re taking these people’s lives. Nobody wins from that. For example, the Will Smith situation. Nobody won. Every week, I’m losing a close friend or family or hearing about someone being gunned down. Man, we need these people to make our community better.”

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