Reverend Earl Smith is the team chaplain for the 2019 NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers as well as the NBA's Golden State Warriors.
In 1983, at the age of 27, Smith became the youngest person ever hired as a protestant chaplain by the California Department of Corrections.
Smith was born and reared in Stockton, Calif. The cycle of events in his life came to a head in 1975, when he was shot six times while living the life of a small-time gangster. Although expected to die, Smith’s father’s faith, prayers and love seemed to bring him through. The words of his father have motivated him since that event: “You are a rebel, but you are God’s rebel, and He is going to use you to His glory.”
In 1983, Smith arrived at San Quentin just like everyone thought he would. Labeled as a gang member and criminal from a young age, Smith was expected to do some time, but after a brush with death during a botched drug deal, Smith’s soul was saved and his life path altered forever.
From that moment on, Smith knew God had an unusual mission for him, and he became a minister to the lost souls sitting on death row. For 23 years, Smith played chess with Charles Manson, witnessed 12 executions, and negotiated truces between rival gangs. But most importantly, Smith helped the prisoners of San Quentin find redemption and hope, and understand that it is still possible to find God’s grace and mercy from behind bars.
Smith is the author of the book “Death Row Chaplain,” released in 2014.
The ministry of Earl Smith is known across the nation. He has appeared on numerous broadcasts, including HBO, CNN, The CBS Morning News, The 700 Club, Trinity Broadcasting Network, 100 Huntley Street, The Discovery Channel and The History Channel. Smith has been featured in such publications as People’s Weekly, Ministry Today, Newsweek, Ebony, Christianity Today, Guidepost, The African Americans and Time. Earl has received two “Angel” awards for excellence in media.
On this episode of the podcast, Reverend Earl shares the story of faith with the 2019 49ers, what that moment was like for him to see San Francisco go to the Super Bowl, dealing with adversity and ministering to those that are going through difficult times and how faith has changed and evolved in the NFL over the last 30 years.
You can listen to Earl Smith's first interview as he tells his incredible story from Episode 80 of the podcast here.