By CHRIS HELLMANN
Eric Smallridge was a student like every other. He was successful in school, his college soccer career was outstanding and he was well known and liked on his campus. Smallridge had a life that a lot of people wish they had.
On a typical night out with his soccer team, he had a couple of drinks and made what turned out to be the biggest mistake in his life. That night, he thought he could still drive his truck home. He ended up killing two college girls by accident. He was then sentenced to 22 years in jail.
His promising future was destroyed just like that. He describes the situation as the four worst seconds of his life. Today, Smallridge is traveling around Florida with the mom – Renee Napier – of one of the girls he killed to speak about drunk driving.
Napier is the reason Smallridge is out of jail. She wanted him to tell other people his tragic story to spread awareness. Today, Napier and Smallridge call themselves friends. Napier was able to forgive Smallridge after the long painful process of getting over the death of her daughter, Meagan.
Every year, Smallridge and Napier visit Lynn to give a speech in front of all student athletes. All of those students expect just another boring speaker they have to attend because their coach or athletic director said so. What they do not realize is that they will leave the room shocked, moved and touched.
“[Smallridge] was in the same situation like all of us. He was enjoying his college life, and with one bad decision, he destroyed his future,” said Aaron Zucker, junior on the men’s soccer team. “In his speech, all of us could relate to his situation. I will definitely never forget this speech.”
Yes, Smallridge destroyed his dreams and his future but he is doing a good job reaching out to other students and touching them with his words in the hopes that he can make an impact on their decision making when it comes to drinking and driving.
“I have been in those situations; having a couple of drinks and still thinking I am able to drive,” said an anonymous Lynn Men’s Soccer player. “This speech brought tears to my eyes, I promised myself to never drink and drive again.”
The Lynn community is more than happy to welcome Napier and Smallridge on campus every year to talk about such an important and ongoing topic for college students.
Smallridge may never get the happiness back he had when he was a college student, but he may have helped and will help a lot of students not to make the same mistake.