Deana Smith, director of Player Security Services for the NFL, offers advice for a living: She’s responsible for providing security-related information, education and services to more than 1,600 players around the NFL every season.

Veteran players and rookies can come to Smith for all safety concerns. Smith, the only African-American woman in her field, told the AFRO she helps players learn how to protect themselves, not by forcing them to take her services, but instead, serving as a premium source of information for any and all means of security.

“We’re in position to share information and services to help players safeguard their lives, whether it’s offering the use of our robust security team, or even performing background investigations into any third party services that a player may be looking to hire,” said Smith, who is also a lawyer.

“It could be a nanny, or other private contract work like lawn care providers or housekeeping, or potential business ventures,” Smith said. “We will look into these services to ensure everything checks out safely for our players.”

Smith, who obtained her doctorate in jurisprudence from Indiana University, has worked in the liaison field of athletes for several years. Before her arrival at the NFL in 2008, she served 10 years with the Enforcement Services Agent, Gambling and Amateurism Activities department for the NCAA. There, she investigated allegations of rules violations related to illegal gambling and improper benefits by student athletes. She was also responsible for providing education on these matters to NCAA officials, as well as university officials and student-athletes.

Today, Smith performs similar duties for the NFL.

Smith’s job may not be the most high-profile job with the NFL, but it’s certainly one of the most important.

Most of America knows that NFL players are not only talented, but also quite wealthy. Their money makes them prime targets and several players have been robbed, in most instances at gunpoint, throughout the last half-decade, including the late Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor, who suffered a fatal gunshot wound after attempting to fight off a gunman during a robbery at his Florida home in 2007.

Smith said she wasn’t with the NFL when Taylor’s tragedy occurred, but the impact of his death was definitely felt by the league. The tragic shooting of late Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams in 2008 also “heightened awareness” among players and NFL officials of how serious security should be taken for players away from the game.

“Because of these unfortunate events, players are now even more involved in managing and maintaining their safety and security,” said Smith, who explained how players collaborate with the league to offer their own testimonies and experiences to educate each other as peers on how to avoid or prevent off-the-field danger.

Smith told the AFRO that none of her duties have been altered under the league’s new collective bargaining agreement, but noted how the NFL lockout did keep players away for most of the summer.

“Because of the timing of the new , players are just now reporting to their teams, so we’ll have to be creative in how we communicate information to them,” Smith said, “but we’ll adjust accordingly and make sure they have everything they need.”

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor