Alex Highsmith’s dad talks about son’s new multimillion-dollar contract with Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers drafted Highsmith in the third round of the 2020 draft after he excelled as a walk-on at UNC Charlotte.
Published: Jul. 24, 2023 at 9:30 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Sam Highsmith was delivering medical supplies to a hospital in Rocky Mount last Wednesday just a few hours after a tornado touched down in the city. About 500 miles away, his son was busy taking his future in the NFL by storm. Alex Highsmith signed a new five-year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers worth $68 million. When the news broke of the new contract extension, Sam’s phone lit up with text messages from family and friends.

“I worked and I got home (Wilmington) about 11:00 that night and I started replying to everyone’s text messages and DM’s,” Highsmith said.

The former school principal took on a part-time job to supplement his retirement so that he and his wife could travel comfortably to Alex’s NFL games. Highsmith says he advised his son to invest his money. As parents, they were not looking for or expecting any handouts.

“The money he’s made over the past three years he’s invested--he hasn’t touched it,” said Highsmith.

The new contract changes Alex’s bank account significantly, but Highsmith, who says he will continue to work part-time for now, says the money is nice, but that’s not what’s most important.

“It’s more of a recognition that he’s arrived and he’s one of the best as opposed to the actual money in his pocket. And I mean that sincerely and people who have known me all my life know that I’m not just saying that. I still can’t envision the fact that his paycheck is going to go from--and it was a decent paycheck--I forget what he said he would get in a paycheck--like $900,000 a year. It’s going to go up.”

Highsmith says the entire experience has been surreal for the entire family, especially for his wife and daughter--Alex’s sister. But what happened last week when Alex signed on the dotted line will never replace the moment NFL commissioner Roger Goddell called Alex’s name in the 2020 draft.

“We were sitting there waiting and it was getting to be around midnight and he (Alex) told everyone to be quiet and I glanced down and you could see Pa. on the caller ID so we knew it was either Philadelphia or Pittsburgh,” Highsmith recalls. “The moment was when you saw on his face the tears and he said ‘coach’--and I think he said Coach Tomlin but you could tell then it was real.”

It was really a dream come true. Highsmith says he never thought of his son playing in the NFL. As a kid, he says Alex was always competitive, but it wasn’t until his junior year at Ashley High School that he started to notice an athletic drive he had not seen before. He also noticed the physical changes.

“He was basically 5′8″—5′9″ for a long time. He fell in love with the weight room. I love to use that term. His senior year, he was probably weighing about 200—205—when he left Ashley he was almost 230.”

Alex is now listed at 6′4″ and 260 pounds.

Highsmith says through all of this excitement his greatest joy is that his mother was able to see her grandson get drafted into the NFL before she passed. His father passed many years ago. The night of the draft, despite being too sick to be with Alex, she got out of her recliner and danced. WECT shared the video that went viral on the internet.

“She was so happy,” Highsmith said. “She would wear her jersey each game. She would wear her jersey to her doctor’s appointment and people would say ‘Oh you are a Steelers fan’ and she would say ‘My grandson plays for the Steelers.’ My faith tells me they are looking down. Part of the joy is seeing your parents or your friend’s reaction to your kid. That’s part of the joy. Part of the joy for me is knowing other people are happy about what my son has done.”

Highsmith’s wife, also an educator, still works but she will likely retire soon. It’s likely Highsmith’s part-time job as a medical courier will come to an end, too, but he’s adamant it won’t happen unless Alex tells him to quit. And there’s Mrs. Alex Highsmith who still works as a nurse. Only time will tell, or Alex.

While he’s thrilled his son is now a multimillionaire, he’s most proud that he remains respectful, close to his family, and above all, God. Highsmith says what he prayed for long before there were any visions of the NFL has already been answered.

“Every parent--at least I hope--every parent wants the best for their children,” Highsmith said. “You want them to be better than you. You want them to be successful-- to do something they love, and hopefully make a decent living. We learned as educators, you don’t have to make a lot of money. Just make a decent living and be happy.”