Smith buys stake in training facility



May 3, 2008; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers mini camp attendee wide receiver Steve Smith (89) walks to field before his second day of practice at the practice facility at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Plassmann-US PRESSWIRE

When Steve Smith retires, he doesn't want to let all the nuances he knows about playing pro football go to waste.

So Smith, the Carolina Panthers' star wide receiver, has purchased a stake in a Charlotte sports performance training center -- part of a growing industry that provides specialized training to improve athletes' agility, speed and strength, and helps them avoid injury.

Smith bought nearly 50 percent of the Velocity Sports Performance center off Nations Ford Road in south Charlotte, he said Monday.

Center director Jeff Krupa retains majority ownership. The deal also gives Smith ownership rights in any Velocity center that opens elsewhere in the Charlotte area.

Smith plans to promote Velocity, but he said his interest in the center transcends business. He also hopes to talk to young athletes about what he has learned as an elite professional athlete. He is scheduled to run training sessions for teens ages 13 to 18 at the center May 24. He will not conduct regular training classes.

"I like interaction with young athletes," he told the Observer. "I look forward to helping to improve the performance of area athletes."

Smith has trained at Velocity since the 2007 season ended in December. He felt like a better player at the Panthers' minicamp over the weekend, he said.

"I could see a big difference (in performance) in a short amount of time," he said. "Physically, I feel stronger, and faster in and out of breaks."

Velocity, launched in 2005 and based in Newport Beach, Calif., operates more than 65 centers nationwide. Athletes as young as 7 and as old as adults train at Velocity in Charlotte for numerous sports. "This is to improve athleticism and confidence at all skill levels, not just elite athletes," Krupa said.

At least two competing centers in the Charlotte area offer sports performance training.

Krupa purchased the Charlotte center, one of two Velocity locations in North Carolina, in October after his two young sons had been training there for a few months. He's a former corporate lender with Merrill Lynch.

Smith, 28, a Los Angeles native, has made three Pro Bowls in seven seasons with the Panthers. He co-runs Athletes United for Youth, a local charity.

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