Tupeloan back home, unpacking big dreams

TUPELO – Ertina “Tina” Smith has big dreams, but she’s still trying to figure out which one she wants.
The 30-something Tupelo native has tales to tell about her life as a young single. And she’s enjoying her first home, situated in the downtown historic district.
“I’ve always wanted my own house,” the petite brunette says. She’s working carefully and prudently to decorate it as she weighs her career and style options.
Smith has been on an odyssey since her graduation from Mississippi State University, first with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Next came master’s courses at Jackson State University, then sports psychology studies through online Capella University, back to MSU for behavioral disorders courses and now back to Capella for a spring finish on her master’s in sports psychology.
She’s considering teaching at the university level to develop her own sports psychology consulting business.
“Or I might just move to New York City,” she laughs. Smith has never been to NYC.
The daughter of retired teacher Canzella Smith of Tupelo and the late O.B. Smith, a longtime city of Tupelo employee, right now she’s thinking about the National Football League season.
“I’ve always loved football,” she recalls, saying her parents were big sports fans. She also notes that her college experiences helping recruit high school players as an MSU Bulldog Belle hostess, helped her get to know a lot of athletes who’ve gone on to professional careers.
Her best friend, Teresa, she says, is married to Randy Thomas, an NFL guard who’s set to play for the Miami Dolphins after a few years with the Washington Redskins.
She admits spending about two years “off and on” hanging out with the Thomases and enjoying the high life with them.
Back to Tupelo in 2008, she’s worked retail, then went back to school after losing that job.
But the big dream lingers – of success as a sports psychologist in the Big Apple, especially because of her love for the New York Giants.
Her small dream is to spend as much time as possible in a spa and go to nice restaurants for well-done filet mignon and asparagus with butter sauce.
“My school projects take up a good bit of time right now,” she confides, saying it calls for her to interview coaches. One most immediately ahead is former MSU quarterback, Sleepy Robinson, who’s Durant High School’s head football coach.
If she could interview any coach, dead or alive, Smith says it would be the University of Alabama’s iconic Bear Bryant. “I’ve always been a huge Alabama fan,” she admits, despite her Bulldog heritage.
She also says she’s a big admirer of former MSU head coach Jackie Sherrill.
“Coach Sherrill was always kind to me while I was a Bulldog Belle,” she noted. “The last time I saw him, he gave me his card and told me to call him, if I never needed anything.”
But she lost the card.
Nudging her on is the memory of friend Sean Taylor, a Redskin player who was shot and died in 2007, and of other athletes who come from tough backgrounds and get into trouble from bad decisions.
Taylor’s death “really made me want to go into sports psychology,” she explains.
She sees herself counseling them about making better choices and helping them better understand themselves.
“A lot of NFL teams don’t have their own sports psychologist,” she says, “I see myself working with them or even using the Internet to connect from home,” which may always be Tupelo.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal