In a half-an-hour, Rod Smith will hold a press conference. Stay with this blog, as we’ll bring you live updates as the presser gets underway.
1:54 P.M. MST: The room is all set up, awaiting the start of the conference. There are 13 video cameras, photographers, reporters and Broncos staffers filling up the team meeting room. Former teammate and current coach Keith Burns is in attendance as well. We should be starting things soon.
1:57 P.M. MST: D.J. Williams just showed up along with Mike Leach and Brandon Stokley. More and more Broncos are strolling in to attend the conference.
2:02 P.M. MST: Vice President of Public Relations Jim Saccomano speaks to begin the press conference. He introduced Rod’s family and invited them to sit in the front of the room.
2:04 P.M. MST: Mr. Bowlen and Coach Shanahan walk into the room, followed by Rod, who is wearing a suit, both Super Bowl rings and a pair of sunglasses. “Obviously the greatest wide receiver to ever play for the Denver Broncos,” Mr. Bowlen says of Rod.
2:06 P.M. MST: Mr. Bowlen tells Rod he appreciates the leadership he displayed throughout his career. “I hope there’s a way that we can keep you involved in this organization, that’s something that I’m a very strong proponent of.”
2:07 P.M. MST: Coach Shanahan steps to the podium. “Rod’s the only person that I have ever been around on a consistent basis, day in day out, that never cared about a stat. All Rod Smith talked about was winning.”
2:08 P.M. MST: Rod sits quietly in the corner, listening to Coach Shanahan speak about him to the crowd. “People ask me should Rod Smith be in the Hall of Fame — you’re darn right he should,” Shanahan says. “He put as much pride in blocking for the runningbacks than he did catching the football. I’m just so proud to have a guy like this that I hope is with this organization for a long time.”
“You’ve always got a job here,” Shanahan said.
“YES,” said Rod, with a fist pump.
“We’ll have to talk about salary,” Shanahan joked and the crowd laughed.
2:10 P.M. MST: Rod steps to the podium. He says he’ll certainly take up the team’s offer to be a part of the organization. “I’ve been able to play for the best owner in sports, not just professional football. I’ve been able to play for the best coach in sports. I’ve been blessed.”
2:12 P.M. MST: Smith begins to tear up. “I knew this was going to happen, that’s why I’m prepared.” He pulls out a tissue and tells the crowd he’s going to start cracking some jokes to lighten the mood, then asks Keith Burns for some good ones. That cracks up the crowd.
2:14 P.M. MST: Rod is telling a story about wanting to prove Woody Paige wrong after he read an article that called him out for fair catching two punts on the 7-yard line. “It turned out great for me because it really inspired me to go out and work even harder to prove that if the Broncos threw me the football I was going to catch it. So, thank you Woody for the first time, and the last time.”
2:16 P.M. MST: “I’m always going to be in Denver. I’ve rooted myself in this city for a reason,” Rod says. “I never wanted to and I never got the opportunity to go anywhere else. And I appreciate that … the market for me has always been right here.”
2:18 P.M. MST: “When my son was born, the first football I ever bought him was an orange and blue Nerf football. That was in college and it just so happens that was the uniform I’ve been wearing ever since,” says a teary-eyed Smith. “Fate put me here, and I’m glad.”
2:19 P.M. MST: “I gave them everything I had,” Smith says. “I don’t want to take up a whole lot of time. I had some amazing mentors in my life. A few of them just passed recently, I wish a few of them could have been here.”
“I’m going to miss being in that seat right there. I’m going to miss the locker room. If I didn’t do anything else I hope I was a great teammate. That’s all I ever wanted to do, was win. And being a part of this organization was great. That’s all I’ve got.”
2:21 P.M. MST: “I’m done,” Rod says. “Thank you very much.”
2:22 P.M. MST: Rod starts taking questions. Asked what’s next for him: “Some yardwork,” he jokes. He also said he’s going to write a book. “All the projects I’ve been dreaming up the past 6, 7 years, now I get to actually go screw them up by being in the way.” The crowd laughs.
2:23 P.M. MST: “There’s four other organizations that I want to thank. The San Diego Chargers, the Oakland Raiders, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Seattle Seahawks. Those people and those other teams obviously make the NFL everything it was meant to be. It was just amazing to be a part of the Black Hole, part of Kansas City with all the fans chopping and going crazy, and the Chargers. Going into those environments with our groups was amazing, and our group coming on top the majority of the time was obviously better.”
2:24 P.M. MST: Rod says he knew he was going to retire on December 31st, last season — the last game of 2007. “I knew it was pretty much a 90 percent chance. But I’m happy with it. I know I’m crying so it doesn’t seem like I’m happy with it, but I am. I’m happy that I even had the opportunity.”
2:26 P.M. MST: Asked about the fact that Coach Shanahan said he should be a Hall of Famer, what does he think? “I think Mike’s a brilliant man. That just adds to his legacy. Honestly I don’t know how they measure who goes in the Hall of Fame. I want to congratulate Gary Zimmerman … I think (Broncos are) overlooked. I don’t know if you just base it on wins and losses or what, but I did everything I could and I would love to have a speech there someday.”
2:28 P.M. MST: Smith says Tom Nalen is a Hall of Fame center — he was on the practice squad with Rod. “I don’t like drafted guys,” he jokes. “Even Keith, he’s my boy but I don’t like him because he got drafted.”
2:30 P.M. MST: Asked about wearing both Super Bowl rings: “I was just going to wear one, but both of them are special. The type of organization we have is represented by these rings.”
On this year’s team: “Tomorrow begins their quest, and I expect them to do very well. They’re family to me.”
On the fans: “Anybody I didn’t sign an autograph for I’m sorry. I tried to do all of them. I appreciate the fans. The Bronco fans are special to me, I appreciate all you guys really supporting me and I love when I see little kids and they have on a No. 80 jersey, it just makes me smile. They don’t know how much that means to me. I’m letting you know, if I don’t come up to you personally, I appreciate you, every single one of you.”
2:34 P.M. MST: Coach steps back to the podium. “That’s how you measure, in my opinion, how great a player is. When no one knows what you’re doing except your teammates,” talking about how much Smith cared about blocking.
2:36 P.M. MST: Coach on when he thought Rod could step up and play in 1995 — “When you first come in as a head coach, you try to look at film all the time, and you’re watching the WRs go against the defense … and you keep on looking at a guy, saying, ‘Can’t they cover this guy?’ You’re going, ‘Holy cow, I’ve got myself a football player and I’ve got myself a winner.’”
2:38 P.M. MST: Thanks for reading, that’s all from the press conference. We’ll have more on the main site soon.
Share your memories of Rod’s career below.
-Gray Caldwell, DenverBroncos.com