Damon J. Smith / Rafa Selase

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Damon J. Smith / Rafa Selase
File:Rafa Selase Jazz Pianist.jpg Rafa Selase Jazz Pianist.jpg
Selase in 2017
BornDamon J. Smith
Vallejo, California, U.S.
  • Rafa Selase
🏫 EducationUtah State University
💼 Occupation
  • Poet
  • pianist
  • songwriter
  • engineer
  • athlete
  • entrepreneur
🏡 Home townVallejo, California, U.S.
🌐 Websiterafaselase.com

Damon J. Smith, also known by his stage name as Rafa Selase, is an American athlete, author, entrepreneur, engineer, jazz pianist, musician, performance poet and radio personality. He is the founder of Souletics and the first professional football player to race professional motocross.[citation needed]

Early years[edit]

Smith grew up in Vallejo, California before moving to Fairfield, California, when he was 14.[1] At Fairfield High School, Smith was a three-sport star, playing basketball, football and track. He competed in California's state track meet in the triple jump and high-jump and earned all-Monticello Empire League honors.[2] He is attributed to helping lead the Fairfield Falcons football and basketball teams to championships before being recruited by Utah State, receiving a full scholarship to play football as a defensive back for the Aggies.[3]

Fairfield High School later inducted him into its Hall of Fame for track & field, football and basketball.[4][5]

College years[edit]

At Utah State University, Smith started 44 straight games at defensive back.[6][7] As a freshman, he led the Big West Conference in interceptions,[8] and made news for suiting up for practice and game day just days after being injured in a three car rollover crash.[9] He made a game-winning fumble recovery and return for touchdown against highly ranked Fresno State University [10] and set the record for interceptions that year, finishing his career second all time on Utah State's Interceptions list with 17 interceptions.[11] Upon graduation, Damon was ranked 2nd in the nation in total career interceptions behind University of Alabama "Jim Thorpe Award Winner" Antonio Langham for their four-year collegiate playing period. He finished his last year of college in the top 50 on the all-time NCAA football list for career interceptions with 17 interceptions, and still ranks on that list today.[12]

Professional career[edit]


After graduating from Utah State with a degree in MIS with a Computer Science emphasis,[13] Smith was recruited and played for the Calgary Stampeders as a defensive back.[14] While in Calgary, Smith was praised by secondary coach Frank Spaziani, stating he "worked hard" and was "a bulldog." [15] He played alongside other notable athletes such as Doug Flutie,[16] Jay McNeil, Travis Moore, Marvin Coleman,[17] Mike Neu, and was coached by Wally Buono.[18] During the ninth game of his rookie season, while replacing injured defensive back Kenton Leonard, he tore a medial collateral ligament in his right knee. His injury prompted concern for what the Stampeders would do for defensive backs, as the injury appeared severe enough to end his season.[16] Smith returned to California to rehabilitate and prepare for other opportunities.[2][18] Although he rehabilitated quickly, Smith found himself without a contract.[19] Over the next year, he trained alongside elite athletes before moving on to endeavors outside of athletics.[13]


In 2005, Smith returned to the world of sport, only this time pursuing his lifelong passion for racing motocross. Although he had experience with BMX in his youth, he had never before raced a motorcycle.[20][21][22] After training and racing for two years, he began pursuing national level races, and raced in the 2008 Loretta Lynn’s Amateur Championship, which is known as the world's largest amateur motocross race, and the final stop for amateurs before they join the professional ranks.[23][24] The following year, he raced in the World Amateur Arena Cross Finals held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV,[25] in which the top five riders from each class from the four Arena Cross Series regions (East, West, Midwest and Central) raced for the championship title.[26] By the end of his third year of racing, he passed the rigorous qualification process required to advance to the pro level, competing against hundreds of other would-be pro racers for the 75 pro qualification points required to officially earn the "Pro" title.[27][28] [29][30] Officially an AMA Pro in 2009, he competed in the west coast leg of the American Motorcyclist Association Arenacross Series, as well as the Washougal, Washington race of the American Motorcyclist Association Motocross Series,[31] and in 2010, he competed in 4 AMA Supercross Championship events in the Lites class.[32]

Business and media[edit]

Smith joined the engineering team at Intel Corporation, eventually earning the title Senior Design Engineer.[33][34] He established a publishing company, Inspiring Minds Publications, authored and published a sports motivation book titled, "Don't Stop the Swagger: Preparing the Mind, Body & Soul for Peak Performance."[34]

In 2006, Smith was recognized by Essence Magazine as one of 50 "Do-Right-Men" for his work highlighting the plight of street children in Brazil through a documentary titled "Don't Let the Fire Die".[35] Smith later published the memoir of one of the street children under his publishing company, Inspiring Minds Publications.[36]

In 2007, Smith started a talk radio show on Sacramento/Bay Area radio station, KFIA 710AM.[37] "The Athlete's Show" discussed socially oriented issues from an athlete's perspective. The show aired weekly in 2007, and he interviewed professional athletes such as former Oakland Raider Jerone Davison, former Redskin/49er Rod Moore, former Toronto Blue Jay Kevin Bracey, as well as his former coach and then UCLA Bruins Defensive Coordinator DeWayne Walker. In 2008, he returned to the airwaves, expanding the format and changing the name to "The Damon J. Smith Show". The show explored controversial issues pertaining to religion and politics and covered the 2008 Presidential Elections.[38][20]

In 2016, Smith began creating music under the stage name, Rafa Selase.[39] His improvisational piano album, "Meditation Music," peaked at number 8 on the Billboard chart.[40] All About Jazz online jazz magazine called his 2018 "Red Blooded American" album "a compelling display of passion and artistry," giving it 4.5 out of 5 stars.[41]


  1. Richard Freedman (January 2015). "Ex-Gridder inspires through music, art, poetry". Times Herald. Vallejo, CA.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Paul Farmer (May 1994). "No Time to Sit Around for Smith". Daily Republic. Fairfield, CA. p. B1.
  3. Cecil Conley (July 1989). "Grid all-star maintaining a low profile". The Reporter. Vacaville, CA. p. 1C.
  4. "Hall of Fame Inducted Names" (PDF).
  5. "Current Members".
  6. "Winless Utah State Ready for Titans - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com. 1991-10-19. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  7. "Big West Roundup: Utah State Pulls Off Upset of Fresno State - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com. 1991-11-03. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  8. "Consistent Aggie Defense Was Unable to Stop Ute Backs". deseretnews.com. 1991-09-02. Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  9. "Battered Aggies Looking For Win Today - Deseret News". deseretnews.com. 1991-10-19. Retrieved 2016-01-25.
  10. Andy Griffin (October 1991). "Ags ground flying Tigers". Herald Journal. Logan, UT. p. 14.
  11. http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/ust/sports/m-footbl/auto_pdf/06Section8.pdf mjefferis (23 August 2010). "Utah State 2010 Football Media Guide". Issuu.com. p. 133. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  12. "FBS Statistics Career Interceptions".
  13. 13.0 13.1 Jon Gibson (September 1994). "Smith Learns from Summer in Seattle". Daily Republic. Fairfield, CA. p. B1.
  14. Murray Rauw (August 16, 1994). "Life on taxi squad has share of ups-and-downs". Calgary Herald. Calgary, Canada. p. C3.
  15. Murray Rauw (Sep 7, 1994). "Secondary sees an end to its streak". Calgary Herald. Calgary, Canada. p. C1.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Murray Rauw (Sep 11, 1994). "Questions abound after loss". Calgary Herald. Calgary, Canada. p. C6.
  17. Murray Rauw (Oct 15, 1994). "Stamps' Leonard is raring to go". Calgary Herald. Calgary, Canada. p. C2.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Murray Rauw (June 1, 1995). "Rookie Reid hits some rough waters". Calgary Herald. Calgary, Canada. p. C2.
  19. "Ken Rayner Cfl - BaseballOrioles - Activated P Sid Fernandez from the... - Baltimore Sun". Articles.baltimoresun.com. 1994-07-05. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  20. 20.0 20.1 "Souletics Experience puts activism, music in the mix". Sacramento Bee. 2014-12-18. Retrieved 2014-12-20.
  21. “” (2010-01-15). "TheMXShow.com Part 1 - logon www.DontStoptheSwagger.com". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-10-20.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  22. “”. "The MX Show Part 2 - - logon www.DontStoptheSwagger.com". YouTube. Retrieved 2010-10-20.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  23. http://lorettas08.tracksideresults.com/class.asp?s=&e=1&c=13
  24. Tuttle, Andrew (July 28, 2014). "A Bit of Loretta Lynn's Motocross History". MotoSports.com. Retrieved 2018-05-07.
  25. "AMA Arenacross Series". Arenacross.com. 11 October 2009. Archived from the original on 26 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  26. "Amateur Arenacross Championship Results - Arenacross Racing". Motorcycle USA. 2009-10-15. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  27. "AMA Sports Results Center". Ama-cycle.org. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  28. http://www.amaproracing.com/assets/MX_License_Eligibility_Form.pdf
  29. "Pro Rider Licensed List on MX Sports Pro Racing". Mxsportsproracing.com. Archived from the original on 24 December 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  30. "AMA Sports Results Center". Amadirectlink.com. 2008-02-23. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  31. "Durham Shows Top-Level Motocross Skills". Cycle News. Archived from the original on 5 February 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  32. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 5 October 2010.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  33. http://jaredbolton.com/2011/02/12/damon-smith-interview/
  34. 34.0 34.1 Smith, Damon J. (2004). Don't Stop the Swagger. Inspiring Minds Publications. ISBN 0-9752910-0-9. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  35. "Essence Magazine's Do-Right Men". Essence.com. Retrieved 2014-09-26.
  36. Pereira de Souza e Silva, Sidney (2009). Rescued to Tell. Inspiring Minds Publications. ISBN 0615328075. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  37. http://www.sacbee.com/entertainment/music-news-reviews/article4577746.html#/tabPane=tabs-7856609c-1
  38. "The Athlete's Show - Download free podcast episodes by Damon J. Smith on iTunes". Itunes.apple.com. 27 March 2007. Archived from the original on 10 November 2012. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  39. Zering, Stacey. No Depression, the Journal of Roots Music"Rafa Selase's "Beauty of the Warrior" is majestic and cinematic". 2018-07-23.
  40. "Rafa Selase Chart History". 2016-10-1. Retrieved 2019-3-31. Check date values in: |accessdate=, |date= (help)
  41. "Rafa Selase: Red Blooded American Album Review". All About Jazz. 2019-02-28. Retrieved 2019-04-01.

External links[edit]

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