You know that short dude who is surrounded by big guys and talks a lot of shit and acts really tough, but you think he’s being a fake ass? So you step to him and see if he can back up his words, 100% confident that he’ll back down and you’ll be able to call him a pussy? And then he beats your ass in front of all your friends and makes you his bitch?
That short dude is Steve Smith.
I watched Steve Smith play in Carolina for 13 seasons. He started as a returner, seemingly too small to make an impact elsewhere on the field. And then he decided that he was Steve Smith, he was going to beat the shit out of his teammates, and he was going to be the best damn wide receiver in the league.
So, that’s what Steve Smith did. In his third season, he helped the Panthers make the Super Bowl. The highlight was his 69-yard overtime touchdown against the St. Louis Rams in the NFC title game. I remember screaming my lungs out when he caught the pass and took off, just hoping no one would catch him. Shit. Of course, no one was going to catch Steve Smith.
In 2005, he returned from a broken leg and put up the best numbers of his career. A wide receiver was never going to win the MVP award, but Smith got plenty of support as an MVP candidate throughout the year.
Smith put up 1,000-yard season after 1,000-yard season until Jake Delhomme forgot how to football and the Panthers trotted out ten different quarterbacks over the course of two seasons. Even the Browns were like, “Damn, that’s a lot of quarterbacks.”
Once the Panthers got Smith a competent quarterback, he returned to his 1,000-yard form.
Following a down year, Smith was released by the Panthers in 2014 as the team wanted to get younger at receiver. They were also tired of dealing with Smith’s attitude and didn’t want him influencing a young core.
It was the saddest non-game moment in Panthers history. The face of the franchise, kicked out of the building like he was the third-string punter.
Smith went to the Ravens, torched the Panthers in week four, and helped Baltimore beat Pittsburgh in the playoffs for the first time ever. He planned on retiring following the 2015 season, but he, unfortunately tore his achilles tendon in week eight. And because Steve Smith wasn’t going out like a bitch, he returned for the 2016 season.
He officially retired on Friday by declaring that he would no longer be antagonizing defensive backs.
In a league where fun is banned and players are oftentimes fake, Smith was a real one. He battled injury after injury in his career and never made excuses. “Ice Up Son.” It didn’t matter that he was undersized. He was going to fight you. Sometimes, literally. It didn’t matter if he was double covered, he was going to get the ball. He got kicked out of a game, returned to watch the game in the stands with his kids, and then tweeted that he had been kicked out for, “ballin too hard.”
Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens got plenty of coverage for their antics and celebrations. Steve Smith didn’t get the same type of coverage. Because Steve Smith didn’t do shit for attention. He did shit because he truly didn’t give a fuck.
The Panthers should have kept Steve Smith around. Maybe their current group of receivers wouldn’t be soft bitches who can’t beat press coverage despite being 6’5’’. Maybe he could have taken some heat off of Cam Newton. Maybe he and Josh Norman would have killed each other in practice before becoming best friends, bonding because their mom shares the same name.
That last line was a Batman vs. Superman joke. If you didn’t get it, you haven’t seen the movie. And I envy you.
It’s disappointing that Smith didn’t sign one of those one-day contracts so he could retire as a member of the Panthers organization. I really hope David Gettleman stops acting like a baby and mends fences with Smith. Smith is the greatest receiver in Panthers history. Gettleman is a dude who drafts defensive tackles.
Ultimately, it’ll be Jerry Richardson’s call as to whether or not Smith will be inducted into the Panthers Hall of Fame because he’s the owner. That means Smith will be inducted into the Panthers Hall of Fame. Because Richardson underwent a heart transplant and doesn’t have time for petty bullshit.
Thank you for everything, Steve Smith. The NFL sucks a lot more now that you’re gone.