Early Thursday, we published a story detailing Champ Bailey’s accomplishments, what his teammates and coaches thought of him and why his 2006 season was worthy of consideration for Defensive Player of the Year, which would make him the first cornerback to win the award in a dozen years.
But one player who wasn’t quoted in the piece was wide receiver Rod Smith, since his weekly sitdown with the media came on Thursday. With a gaggle of microphones and audio recorders surrounding him, Smith’s question-and-answer session was just about to wrap up after six minutes when I asked him whether Bailey deserved to win the honor.
Smith’s answer was as decisive as it was detailed, and here it is in its entirety:
“Definitely. No doubt. Just look at what he does on the football field — he can shut a whole side down. When you have a team that doesn’t even look at throwing the football over there — and then when they do it, (it’s) by mistake — he ends up taking it back the other way.
“I mean, I’ve never played with a better football player, I don’t believe. I played with John Elway, and he’s a legend, he’s great, (so) I’ll exclude him. But everybody else I’ve ever played with, I’ve never seen anybody else like him. I call him ‘The Jedi,’ actually. I think he’s Yoda’s son because he knows where the hell the ball’s going before they even throw it, and he just runs over there and I’m like, ‘Dude, that’s not your guy.’
“Honestly, I really appereciate the opportunity to get to play with that kind of greatness. He’s not good, by no means; he passed good a long time ago, before he ever came to the Broncos. The people who vote on that (defensive player of the year) — I don’t know who votes. “I don’t know if you have a vote (I don’t, sadly), but you’ve got to look at all the things he does for our football team and how he can take another team and make them change everything they do. That, to me, is the defensive player of the year, and at the same time, he’s turned games around and helped us win games very quickly.
“Like I say, he’s an amazing athlete, and he’s a great person, just the character of Champ is probably more impressive than his athletic ability, and he’s probably got more athletic ability than pretty much anybody on this planet. I just hope he gets what’s due to him, because he’s worked his butt off and he deserves it.”