Former Vikings James Smith now leads support group at Bobby and Steve's

Inside Bobby and Steve's Auto World in Eden Prairie, there's a character named James Smith.

He works the grill by day -- and on Thursday nights you can find him in a conference room upstairs.

At 54, you still see hints of the pro football days in his big, bulky frame. Smith played for the Raiders, Redskins, and Vikings -- a fast and furious life in the mid-1980s.

And in his voice, you can hear the remorse of what happened after his playing career was over.

"Forgiveness is the key to going on," he says, "'Cause I've done so much bad stuff in my life... both drugs and alcohol, I wasn't living a committed life."

Smith spent a year in prison after he was convicted for possessing drugs with the intent to sell. He says he's lucky he's even alive.

"1990, I was living here in Minneapolis, I was involved in a crime -- almost got killed," Smith says. "I was left for two days wrapped in plastic over my head, hands was tied, feet was tied. I had to scratch my head so that I could breathe, this mark on my head where I was able to suck up air in a bag."

Smith wanted to be free of addiction, but suffered successes and failures until about five years ago.

"I'm so happy, probably the happiest time I've had in my life," he says.

And it's through his job at Bobby and Steve's that he's been able to start a self-help group for others on Thursday nights.

"Love makes me want to get up in the morning and provide and do the right things," he says.

And speaking of love -- he has that too. His wife, Darice, who he married two years ago after a chance meeting on a bus.

"I asked her if she was married, and she said, 'Yeah, I'm married to the Lord," Smith says. "I said, 'Oh Lord, is this the one?'"

Darice is a big part of the support in her husband's support group.

"We're all in recovery from something," Darice says. "Drugs, alcohol, smoking, overeating -- we're all going through issues."

It's an open and free place to talk.

"I really want to be able to help more people," Jones says. "I'm not trying to convert anyone to Christianity."

And it's an open invitation to turn your life around -- right here at Bobby and Steve's in an upstairs conference room.

"Yeah, that forgiveness is good stuff," Smith says.

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