Decade after retirement, Smith gets into Pride of Jaguars
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Retired NFL receiver Jimmy Smith, whose life has been defined as much by drug addiction as football production, will be the next member of Jacksonville’s ring of honor.
The team announced Tuesday that Smith will be inducted into the Pride of the Jaguars during halftime of its Dec. 11 game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Smith will join offensive tackle Tony Boselli (2006), original owners Wayne and Delores Weaver (2011), running back Fred Taylor (2012) and quarterback Mark Brunell (2013) in the Pride.
The 47-year-old Smith is the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions (862), receiving yards (12,287) and receiving touchdowns (67). He still holds 11 team records, including most consecutive games with a reception (86).
“There is no question that Jimmy Smith was one of the best players to ever wear a Jaguars uniform,” owner Shad Khan said in a statement. “His contributions in the early years were critical to the success the Jaguars enjoyed during that time. The fact that most of his records have stood for 10 years without being surpassed underscores what a great player he was. I wish I had personally seen Jimmy play more frequently, but I am very happy that we will appropriately honor him at EverBank Field in December.”
Known for his ability to out-muscle or outrun defenders, Smith likely would have been among the first inductees into the Pride. But a number of arrests, including several on drug charges, delayed his inclusion.
Smith abruptly retired in May 2006 after 12 NFL seasons and denied speculation that he was facing a yearlong suspension for another violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.
Smith was arrested three times in Jacksonville (2001, 2008 and 2009) on DUI and drug charges, and suspended four games in 2003 for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. He was arrested twice more in Mississippi (2010, 2012). His last one violated his probation and landed him a six-year sentence. He was placed on house arrest in 2013 and released a year later. He remains on parole until March 10, 2017.
“Had I not gone through some of the off-the-field issues, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today,” Smith said during a conference call. “I’ve definitely matured and learned from my mistakes and I’m able to help that other guy who may be struggling with the same issues that I’ve struggled with in my life.
“Everybody has issues and problems. It’s just how do you deal with those problems and how do you come out of it. The work is not over with me by any means.”
Once in denial about his addiction, Smith has accepted it as part of his life.
“Struggling with an addiction, it’s every day,” he said. “I have to live my life in recovery as a reminder of what I’ve gone through and where I am today and how I’ve persevered and not to go back there again.
“That’s what I mean with the work is just beginning. It’s not the end. It’s the beginning of the second chapter of my life. It’s a lot of hard work and I’ve got a job to do. It’s up to me to go out there and be a role model for those that are in need.”
Although drugs affected his NFL career and his retirement, injuries nearly derailed his NFL career.
The third receiver selected in the 1992 draft, Smith broke his leg and missed most of his rookie season. He missed all of 1993 after having an emergency appendectomy and suffering through infection and stomach problems. He didn’t play in 1994, either, after getting cut by Dallas and Philadelphia.
In 1995, he caught on with the expansion Jaguars after his mother sent then-coach Tom Coughlin a binder of press clippings to help him get a tryout.
Smith made the most of that opportunity and became one of the league’s most feared wideouts, catching a franchise-record and NFL-leading 116 passes in 1999. He helped the Jaguars make the playoffs four consecutive seasons (1996-99) and was voted to five consecutive Pro Bowls (1997-2001).
In 2001, Smith needed three operations to remove scar tissue from his abdomen. Some questioned whether he would play again, but he caught 112 passes for 1,373 yards that season. He also led the team in receptions the next four years until he called it quits.
Now, more than a decade later, his name and jersey number (82) will adorn the stadium.
“It gives me chills to hear you say that I’m going to get my name on the stadium,” he said. “It’ll be there forever. Hopefully my grandkids’ kids will be able to see that. It just means a lot.”