The Shadow League
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. produced some real G-funk moments in his illustrious 16-year career, 13 of which he spent blitzing D-backs for the Carolina Panthers franchise.
He epitomized the heart of a champion as a physically unimposing player with a pit bull mentality who outlasted all of the bigger and faster guys and finished his career with 14,731 receiving yards and 81 touchdowns and a world of respect throughout the league.
He was a fireball of emotion, bravado, relentless pursuit of dominance and perfection. Some say he had a classic Napoleonic complex. Some call Smith, Sr. a bad ass who knew his limitations and how to turn them into assets.
The 37-year-old receiver initially said 2015 would be his final season in the NFL, but after a torn Achilles in Week 8, Smith decided that he didn’t want to go out in that fashion. He still had stuff to prove. He never let any player or any situation dictate his future for him.
Proving himself is something Smith mastered early in the game.
In 2001, he was the first rookie to make the Pro Bowl as a special teams player since Tyrone Hughes in 1993, proving his undeniable ilk as a pure football player right out of the gate. He spent most of his rookie season as a kick and punt returner, leading all rookies in net yardage with 1,994 yards, and landing in fourth place among all NFL players behind Priest Holmes, Marshall Faulk, and Derrick Mason.
In 2005, Smith earned the NFL’s receiving “triple crown”, leading the league in receptions (103), yards (1,563) and touchdowns with 12.
These accomplishments were just the tip of the iceberg as Smith went on to perform well in postseason situations, in the clutch and come back from career-threatening injury to finish on his own regal terms.
In his final NFL game on Sunday, Smith was his usual self, even in a vulnerable moment. He was emotional, real and true to the game following the Ravens 27-10 loss in Cincinnati. He’s a 21st century pass-snatching kingpin, with a legendary dedication to conditioning and his teammates and his fans. He understood the stage and embraced the cameras and the challenge of the game’s best defenses.
With a bark as lethal as his bite and diplomacy viewed as a kryptonite to his Superhuman skills, Smith’s dark side was as important to his success and competitive spirit as his light of optimism.
The five-time Pro Bowler joined CBS for a postgame interview with Jenny Dell, and fought back tears as he spoke about his future and how deeply he’s looking forward to making his family first priority.
“I’ve got a beautiful wife at home, Angie, and four kids that need their dad. And I need my kids. I’m going home to Charlotte to build my family,” said Smith, who was also visibly moved at the podium during the press conference.
Smith is an iconic Panthers player and future Hall of Famer whose passion for the game and performance at the wide receiver position will forever be remembered and recorded in the annals of NFL history.
Smith was a human highlight film at his position and steady as a Chevy. He produced many memorable moments on the field and usatoday.com broke us off with a proper-like Top 10 that is sure to help everyone more accurately reflect on Smith’s career and appreciate the greatness of a guy from Cali who never backed down and inspired so many.
This story originally appeared on TheShadowLeague.com, a site dedicated to journalistically sound sports coverage with a cultural perspective that insightfully informs sports fans worldwide.