Smith was born in Alpena, Michigan, to an Air Force family, which lived in Tehran, Iran, during his last two years of high school. He graduated from Tehran American School. After working for Westinghouse, he joined the United States Army where he served in the 82nd Airborne Division as a paratrooper. He then attended college at Eastern Michigan University, where his athletic talents earned him a spot as a free agent with the Dallas Cowboys in 1985. Smith's football career was cut short by injury and he returned to Eastern Michigan University, where in 1988 he earned a bachelor of science degree in computer aided design.