The humidity on the field at IMG Academy was so thick you could see it. After practice, most of the Panther players did their interviews in the shade beneath a tent.
But Steve Smith was in the sunshine when I approached him, and that's where we stayed. He had just finished a conversation with former Panther quarterback Chris Weinke, who was drafted in 2001, the same season Smith was. Smith was drafted in the third round, Weinke in the fourth.
Weinke is the football program director for IMG Academy.
"Twelve years," Weinke said.
The season will be Smith's 12th.
Smith was in an expansive mood despite the heat. He talked excitedly about his work with Samaritan's Feet. On Saturday in Tampa and he his wife, Angie, and their three children will wash the feet of impoverished children and provide them with new socks and shoes. Under Armour is part of the effort.
Smith will try to get involved in the cause in each of the cities this season in which the Panthers play, as well as in Charlotte. Time constraints will not enable him to actively participate in each, although he will lend his name.
Smith talked about how he wants to appreciate the time he has left in football. He wants to enjoy his teammates. He wants to enjoy the little things about being part of a team and part of the game.
Smith, 33, also talked about the imprint he wants to leave. He says for a long time he played selfishly -- for victories, for statistics and for him.
But now, through his work with organizations such as Samaritan's Feet, he wants to leave a deeper imprint, even if it's the shoes of others that will make it.