Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rod Smith a Tribute.

I started a brief Rod Smith Hall of Fame campaign, just to get the ball rolling, late last season when there became no doubt that he would play again. I'll stand by that now, as I'm sure that anyone else will, it's hard to find a bad word to say about the man. The exact definition of every High School Football Coach's example of never giving up.

As, not even just fans of Denver Broncos know, he was an un-drafted wide receiver out of Missouri Southern. Smith started off on the Denver Broncos practice squad, worked his way into the starting line up in 1995 and recorded a lowly one touchdown on six receptions. 1996 wouldn't be much better for young Smith, when he participated in only ten games, for 16 receptions and two touchdowns.

Then here comes 1997, 70 receptions for 1,180 yards and 12 touchdowns. The rise of Rod Smith was also the rise of the Denver Broncos, Smith would never score 12 touchdowns again in a season. Despite all of those yards and all of those touchdowns, Smith was still not recognized by the NFL, well not enough to be voted by his peers to the Pro Bowl. He would not reach the NFL's Pro Bowl until 2000 when he posted 1,602 yards and eight touchdowns.

2000 was also the first year that I had an opportunity to interview Rod Smith, to meet the man that I had seen easily attain over a thousand-yards receiving the previous three seasons. Despite being a consistent yard gobbler, a constant threat and an on the field leader, it took the NFL this long to vote the man to the Pro Bowl. Never once chosen even as a second team All Pro, it didn't seem to phase him, there were no contract disputes, never a public campaign to be used more in the offense or traded if the Broncos refused to do so.

The man was a throw back, he was Lynn Swann, Steve Largent, he was Jerry Rice to the fans of a new Bronco generation. He was my Paul Warfield- a warrior poet, a leader who took the reigns when John Elway retired and posted his best numbers despite not having a consistent quarterback. Brian Griese can thank Rod Smith for his career, as can most of the 96-98 Broncos for their Super Bowl rings.

A Mile High salute to Rod Smith, we'll see you in five years and if you feel like your family's happy in Denver... I can't think of a better man to be on the sideline, keeping Brandon Marshall focused, letting young Eddie Royal know where he planted wrong and encouraging Keary Colbert to stay strong. I'm sure Brandon Stokley and Darrell Jackson won't mind you screaming from the sideline either.

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