NFL

What Happened to XFL Star ‘He Hate Me’ Rod Smart?

Say the name Rod Smart and some people might not know who that is. Say “He Hate Me” and the conversation changes.

Rod Smart was a stellar athlete at Lakeland High School in Lakeland, Florida. Both a football star and a track star, Smart attended Western Kentucky University after graduation and continued to thrive in both sports. As the team’s lead running back, he rushed for 1,249 yards and 10 touchdowns on 188 carries his senior year and was a first-team All-Gateway Conference selection.

Smart was signed by the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2000 but was released prior to the season. Little did he know that fame would come in a different league.

Rod Smart rises to stardom as ‘He Hate Me’ in the original XFL

When Vince McMahon started the original version of the XFL in 2001, one of the “different” things about the league was that he allowed players to have nicknames on the backs of their jerseys. Sure, why not?

Smart, who had signed with the Las Vegas Outlaws, chose the phrase “He Hate Me” and it was an instant hit. The Outlaws were part of the first XFL telecast, which drew massive ratings due to the popularity of WWE (then the WWF) at the time, and the on-field cameras were constantly around Smart’s jersey. It quickly became the best-selling jersey in the league. In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2004, Smart revealed why he chose the name.

“After I win, he’s gonna hate me. It is what it is. It’s a saying I was saying when I’d feel something wasn’t going my way. For example, (when) I was on the squad in Vegas and coach was putting other guys in, (if) I felt I’m better than them, you know, hey, ‘he hate me.’ See what I’m saying? Give me a chance. That’s all I ask. It came from the heart. Within. The way I felt. I feel as if everyone hates me, from my mom to my dad and even my brothers and sisters everyone “Hates Me”. My buddy Greg Kates always used to use it, so I took it from him.”

Rod Smart

Rod Smart finished that XFL season, famously the lone season of the original version, with 555 rushing yards, good for second in the league, and scored three touchdowns. He also tacked on 245 receiving yards.

From the XFL to CFL to the NFL

Once the XFL collapsed, Rod Smart signed on with the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL. He played in just one preseason game and was released. The NFL finally came calling in October 2001. Smart was signed to the Philadelphia Eagles’ practice squad and later made the main roster, playing in six games for Philly before being released at the end of the season.

In September 2002, Smart was picked up by the Carolina Panthers and became a crucial part of the special teams unit. Smart recorded a tackle in 14 of 16 games for Carolina that season and was then also used as a kick returner the following season. He racked up 947 yards on 41 returns, including a 100-yard kickoff return against the New Orleans Saints. The player formerly known as “He Hate Me” also had 74 return yards in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

Smart stayed with the Panthers until the spring of 2006. He signed with the Oakland Raiders later that year but failed to make the 53-man roster. In total, Rod Smart played in 53 NFL games in his career.

Rod Smart went missing in 2019

After his football career ended, Rod Smart returned to the Carolinas. He was a motivational speaker for youth and also attempted an acting career, although he appeared in just one film, 2010’s Don’t Blame the Lettuce.

In the late spring of 2019, Rod Smart was reported missing in South Carolina. On June 12, an advisory was put out after family members grew concerned that they hadn’t heard from him. Thankfully, Smart was found safe one week later. No reason was given for his disappearance.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Rod Smart is currently living in the Charlotte, North Carolina area and is the owner and fitness specialist for SmartSize, which provides personalized training for both individuals and groups.