Jackie Smith played 15 NFL seasons for the St. Louis Cardinals. It was there where he developed a reputation as one of the game’s best tight ends. Despite all those years of success that ultimately landed him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Smith is remembered by many for the catch he didn’t make for the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl 13 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Where is Jackie Smith today?
Jackie Smith stars with St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals selected Jackie Smith out of Northwestern Louisiana State in the 10th round of the 1963 NFL Draft. During his rookie season, Smith made a strong impression in the fifth game that year against the Pittsburgh Steelers, catching nine passes for 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It was a bit of ironic foreshadowing.
During the 1966 season, Smith caught 45 passes for 810 yards and three touchdowns. He earned what would be his first of five consecutive Pro Bowl honors.
The following season, Jackie Smith put up the best numbers of his career, grabbing 56 passes for an eye-popping 1,205 yards and nine touchdowns. He played with the Cardinals through the 1977 season and retired.
Jackie Smith joins Cowboys and drops pass in Super Bowl
Early in the 1978 season, Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry needed tight end help after starter Jay Saldi broke his arm against the St. Louis Cardinals. Landry called the 38-year-old Jackie Smith to see if he was interested in coming out of retirement. Smith reported to the defending Super Bowl champions a couple of days later.
In Dallas, Smith was relegated to a reserve role. He started a couple of regular-season games but never recorded a catch. After the Cowboys defeated the Atlanta Falcons and LA Rams in the playoffs, they faced off against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl 13, Smith’s first-ever appearance in the title game.
In the third quarter with the Cowboys trailing 21-14, quarterback Roger Staubach spotted a wide-open Jackie Smith in the end zone. Staubach delivered the ball. Smith dropped it.
“I feel badly. If I caught that pass, we would have tied them 21-all and would have had all the momemtum,” Smith said after the game. “It hit me in the hip. The pass was just fine. I was just wide open and missed it. I think I slipped.
“What great guys on this team and I let them down. It was a play coach Landry conceived for this game. And it was quite a play. It might have been a matter of being over-cautious. Maybe I would have caught it with my hands. But I was trying to use my chest.”
Hall of Fame tight end helping to remember veterans
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While that dropped pass was a massive blunder on football’s biggest stage and left a sour taste in the mouth of Cowboys fans, it didn’t take away from Jackie Smith’s overall legacy in the game. In 1994, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Today, the 80-year-old Smith still lives in Missouri and gathers with several of his former teammates on a regular basis to relive some of the old times.
When not visiting with former teammates, Smith is actively involved in a noble cause helping raise money for Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial, which features a permanent full-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The 46-acre site also includes a visitors center and museum space designed to honor all the nation’s veterans, from all conflicts.
For Cowboys fans, Jackie Smith will always be remembered for his drop in Super Bowl 13. For Cardinals fans, he will be remembered for his distinguished Hall of Fame career. And for veterans, he will be remembered as someone who committed his time and energy to raise money to remember them for their service. That’s a legacy that will last longer than any game.