Saturday, May 13, 2006

Smith Should Go To Hall

Former All-Pro Jimmy Smith, wide receiver of the Jacksonville Jaguars, announced his retirement on Friday after 14 years in the NFL. In his press conference he stated that the time was right to go out on top and that he'd left a good legacy on the field.

Amazingly, some analysts and writers spoke out almost immediately after with columns and editorial pieces screaming that Smith will not and should not be enshrined in Canton. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Jimmy Smith is one of the all-time greats at his position. The stats speak louder than his words ever could. After injury problems and struggles at Dallas, where he played from 1992-94, the Jackson State product found a home with the expansion Jaguars in 1995. The rest, as they say, is history.

It was in Jacksonville that Smith and QB Mark Brunell found each other. And while no Super Bowl berths came out of it (the Jags did go to the AFC championship game in 1998), the Brunell-Smith combo was one of the most potent in the NFL.

For his career, Smith has 862 receptions, good enough for seventh place on the all-time list and more than any receiver currently in the Hall. His 12,287 receiving yards is eleventh in history to go along with 67 touchdowns. Of course all of those marks are Jaguar team records. Even more impressive was his 70 catches for 1,023 yards and six touchdowns last year at the age of 36.

He was selected to five pro bowls and put up impressive stats despite a career marred by injuries and drug addiction. Smith was able to overcome these setbacks and have a stellar career.

Granted, he wasn't always the best teammate and his character issues caused major problems at times, but the Hall of Fame is about performance on the field, not character off of it. Yes it would be nice if all our athletes were great role models who never did anything wrong and always played by the rules.

Unfortunately, that is only in fairy tales or the movies. Reality is that many athletes are not exemplary role models, but the Hall of Fame is not about character. If that were the case do you think O.J. Simpson or Lawrence Taylor would be in Canton? It's about performance on the field.

And if you are judging performance on the field, Jimmy Smith, despite a turbulent personal life, had an amazing and productive career. His numbers and the way he played the game should make him a solid selection into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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