Earlier this week the Pro Football Hall of Fame released its preliminary list of candidates for induction in 2012.
There are 102 candidates on this list, which will be whittled down to 25 in mid-November, then to the final list of 15 which will be voted on by the selection committee the Saturday before the Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
Everyone on this list has had notable accomplishments. That’s how they made the list. On the list for the first time is wide receiver Rod Smith.
The easiest guy to overlook is somebody named Smith, but that should not happen in the case of the prolific Denver Broncos wide receiver.
The National Football League is a complete meritocracy. The best players play, regardless of whether one was the very first selection in the draft or a completely ignored, undrafted player—like Rod Smith.
When the 1994 college draft took place the 32 NFL teams selected 29 wide receivers, but none took a flyer on Smith, coming out of Missouri Southern with a triple major off the field and unbridled passion to succeed on it.
The Broncos signed Smith as a “UFA”—undrafted free agent, in football lingo.
There are 14 current members of the Hall of Fame who were undrafted, and Smith is deserving of being number 15 on that distinguished list.
Wide receiver is a position at which a lot of players accumulate a lot of stats in this day and age, so the question is, what distinguishes Rod Smith, what separates him from the pack?
Of all the wide receivers who have ever played pro football, Rod Smith is one of just two—and Jerry Rice is the only other—to have accumulated over 11,000 receiving yards, over 800 receptions, over 60 touchdowns, while also averaging 10 or more wins a year, and also winning multiple Super Bowls.
Just think—everyone is eligible, but it has only been done twice.
Once by Jerry Rice.
Once by Rod Smith.
That’s the complete list.
Smith’s exact stats upon retirement were 11,389 yards on 849 catches for 68 TDs and a 10.5 yard per catch average. Meanwhile, he was a vital contributor to a Broncos team that went 126-70 (a .643 percentage) from 1995 through 2006.
The Broncos of course won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998 and had a 33-6 record for those two years. Just chew on that record awhile and let it sink in.
To top it off, Smith was a team captain and one of the greatest leaders I have ever had the privilege of being around in 34 NFL years. He was the captain’s captain. All about team.
The wins, the team success, are what separate Rod Smith’s stats from those being put up by a lot of players in lesser situations.
It’s a results-oriented business, right? It’s all about winning, right?
Not only are his stats the greatest ever posted by a free agent in NFL history, but he did them all as he helped his team reach the only goal there is—to go to and win the Super Bowl, in his case, back to back.
When you are a wide receiver and a member of an exclusive club that only has two members, and the other one is Jerry Rice, you are sailing in the stratosphere of accomplishment.
Those are the stats, and they make Rod Smith a worthy addition to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.