Carolina Panthers legend Steve Smith never backed down from adversity.
A diminutive receiver who stood only 5 feet 9 inches, Smith suffered numerous serious injuries in his career but kept going. Smith applied lessons about hard work and determination from his youth to become one of the NFL’s most dangerous wideouts.
How stubborn was Smith, now an NFL Network analyst, when it came to injuries? While playing for the Carolina Panthers, Smith caught a pass, broke his arm on the play, and still held on for the touchdown.
Steve Smith is a Carolina Panthers legend
The 74th overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft, Steve Smith immediately contributed as a rookie.
Although Smith only had 10 catches for 154 yards, he earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors for totaling 1,431 yards and two touchdowns on kick returns. Smith ended the year with 1,994 all-purpose yards, numbers that instantly endeared himself to Panthers fans.
Promoted to the starting lineup in 2002, Smith turned 54 catches into 872 yards and three touchdowns. A year later, Smith caught 88 passes for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns in 16 games.
Smith added 18 receptions for 404 yards and three touchdowns in four playoff games. Carolina lost to Tom Brady and the Patriots in Super Bowl 38.
After he missed the 2004 season with a leg injury, Smith returned and became one of the league’s top receivers for nearly a decade. From 2005-13, Smith totaled 678 catches, 10,001 receiving yards, and 57 touchdowns; those amounted to averages of 75 catches, 1,111 yards, and six touchdowns per year.
A five-time Pro Bowler who did his best work with Jake Delhomme under center, Smith ended his time in Carolina with 51 catches, 856 yards, and eight touchdowns.
Smith never backed away from adversity
By the end of the 2013 season, Steve Smith was a few months shy of turning 35 and, at times that season, looked his age.
Although Carolina cut Smith after the 2013 season, that wasn’t the last of his NFL days. Smith joined Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens in an attempt to not only win a Super Bowl ring, but prove his doubters wrong.
Smith turned 79 catches into 1,065 yards and six touchdowns in his first season with the Ravens. He added eight catches for 145 yards and a touchdown in two playoff games.
Smith announced in August 2015 that the upcoming season would be his last. Unfortunately for Smith, who caught 46 passes for 670 yards and three touchdowns that year, he tore his Achilles in his seventh game.
Had Smith stayed healthy and continued at that pace, the 36-year-old would have ended the season with 106 catches, 1,531 yards, and seven touchdowns.
Now on the NFL Network, Smith closed his career with 70 catches, 799 yards, and five touchdowns in 2016. The star wideout retired having caught 1,031 passes for 14,731 yards and 81 touchdowns across 219 career games.
Steve Smith once broke his arm on a touchdown — and held on
Steve Smith played angry throughout his career — and while he stood 5 feet 9 inches, defenses knew now to get Smith even angrier.
Smith also never backed down from a challenge. Take a December 2009 game when Carolina entered the game 6-8 and hoped to spoil Eli Manning and the Giants’ playoff hopes. The Giants, at 8-6, had defeated the Panthers in a Week 16 game in 2008 to clinch home-field advantage in the NFC.
Smith caught his first four passes for 33 yards. Then came a touchdown strike from Matt Moore that Smith grasped in the endzone. Giants safety Michael Johnson drilled Smith with such intensity on the play that the Panthers receiver broke his arm — and still held on for the touchdown.
Carolina won 41-9 and, perhaps motivated by Smith, closed the season 8-8. As Smith would say, “Ice up, son.”