Steve Smith: Local Thug or Emotional Leader?

Stevonne Latrall Smith, better known as Steve Smith, #89 for the Carolina Panthers since getting picked in the third round (74th overall) of the 2001 NFL Draft.  Steve “Smitty” Smith is a feisty man.  Known for snapping on various occasions in various emotional situations just as much as he’s known for his quickness.

Here’s a brief history:

Smith was drafted for the special teams out of the University of Utah, and he delivered.  Earning a spot on the Pro Bowl roster his rookie year for leading all rookies in net yardage with 1,994 yards, and landing in fourth place among all NFL players.  On November 10, 2002, Smith was awarded brief jail time on charges of misdemeanor assault for getting into a scuffle with teammate Anthony Bright during a film-room meeting.  The brawl ended with a shiny broken nose for Bright and two nights in the hospital.

A year later though, Smith was leading his team through the playoffs— catching a game winning 69-yard pass in the 2nd overtime in the Divisional Playoff game against the St. Louis Rams—to Super Bowl XXXVIII.

In 2005 Steve Smith had the greatest year of his career after being out for 15 of the 16 games the previous year for an injury.  Smith earned the “Triple Crown” of receiving, leading the league with 1,563 receiving yards, 108 receptions, and 12 touchdowns.  Steve Smith also won a touchdown celebration competition with Chad Ochocinco, and earning his first ESPN commercial.  Smith did a phenomenal job in the playoffs that season with 27 receptions, for 335 yards, and 3 touchdowns.  Smith was voted Comeback Player of the Year and was voted to the Pro Bowl this season and the next.

On August 1, 2008 Smith and then Carolina Panther cornerback Ken Lucas got into a scuffle in training camp.   Steve Smith was suspended by the team for the first two games of the season.  Though he then came back, led the NFL in yards per game, and was voted to his fourth Pro Bowl.

Let’s fast forward exactly three years later:

August 1, 2011, headline reads “Steve Smith to Stay with Panthers”.  Months before that, Smith had reportedly done everything but actually get traded and move.  Smith’s home in Charlotte was on sale, he had cleared his locker and family suite before the lockout, oh, and he had told Jerry Richardson that he wanted out.  ESPN’s Adam Schefter had spoken with Smith the morning of August 1, 2011, and Steve Smith told him that he would stay with the Carolina Panthers.

“I’m going to be here and I’m ready to show people a side of me that they haven’t seen,” Smith said.  “I’m staying in Carolina.”

Panthers fans let out a sigh of relief, stepped back from the ledge, turned off the panic switch.  In other words, Steve Smith leaving the Carolina Panthers would have been the worst thing to have happened at that specific time, and as a Panthers fan I would just like to take a brief moment to thank him.

Now fast-forward about three months:

Steve Smith is among the most productive wide outs in the NFL with 51 receptions, 951 receiving yards, and 4 touchdowns.  With some much needed help of fellow receivers making noise and having a quarterback that can keep up with him in Cam Newton, Smith is on his way to another Pro Bowl season.  Just like he has always been though, he is as fiery as ever.  I have already witnessed multiple scuffles at Bank of America Stadium involving Smith.

Steve Smith has many tattoos, one on his right arm of the Superman logo.  Now while teammate Cam Newton has his Superman celebration, Steve Smith is definitely super human. After this season’s game against the Chicago Bears, one Bear was quoted after the game saying “We were hitting Steve Smith so hard.  But he would just get up and just yell at us.  It was weird, man.”   Now if I could choose one quote to describe Smith, that would be it, also if you just think about what he is saying, it’s just hilarious.

This past Sunday, in the embarrassing performance by the Panthers in their horrendous loss to the Tennessee Titans, Steve Smith drew a penalty late in the fourth quarter that rooted straight from frustration.  Frankly, it was overdue.  Yes, it was a rough play, Smith basically tackled instead of blocked Tennessee’s defensive back Alterraun Verner, and Verner’s helmet rolled.  My colleague (jokes) Scott Fowler, a Charlotte Observer Sports Columnist caught up with Steve Smith after the game.  Here is their exchange:

Fowler: Steve, what happened at the end of the game?

Smith: You saw it. You’re going to write about it. You write, Scott.

Fowler: I don’t know what the …

Smith: I don’t really care, Scott. That’s how I feel right now. I feel like crap. I’m not going to sit here and explain, I’m not going to apologize. This is me.

If people don’t like it, people are going to write what they want to write, but I live with it. I’ll get over it. I’ll move on. You can harp on it, you can talk about it, you can report it. You can Google it, blog it, however you want to do it.

In a football game, emotions get high. I know I’m not the first one to ever get a penalty; won’t be the last time the local thug gets a penalty. But at the end of the day, I was on a Super Bowl team, I’m going to play, I’m going to make mistakes, so write what you want. Don’t really care, Scott.

You finished? You want any more questions? Because I really don’t care.

Fowler: That’s good for me.

Smith: It was great. So write your article, and keep it moving.

Personally, I really don’t think any of this was a big deal.  Scott was doing what journalists do, and Steve was responding the way athletes do and should.

Over the years I have seen a lot from this man.  He’s been ejected from a game for touching a referee, throwing up on the sideline between drives, fights, trash talking, jumping up and making every little fight and catching a ball that a 5-9 man has no business catching.   I don’t think the Charlotte media gives Steve Smith the credit, praise, or respect he deserves.  I’ve noticed that I don’t see too many interviews with the man, too many quotes, and that is his style, and maybe because he doesn’t like to talk to the media so much, but is so colorful with everyone else, they aren’t too fond of him.  This guy looses his head at many times, but if I could pick one specific person for all of the Panthers Organization to follow, and for him to lead by example, it would be Steve Smith.  He never plays without heart.  His fight, his effort, and emotion truly do define him, and he has helped define an organization for 10 years now, an organization that was once feared for exactly that kind of emotion, and I believe will be again soon.

Now here are two Bojangles commercials starring none other than Steve Smith:

This one’s with Jake Delhomme!

This one’s my greatest fantasy.

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4 Responses to Steve Smith: Local Thug or Emotional Leader?

  1. Zac says:

    Great post Garret. Like you I am a HUGE Smitty fan. Luckily for me I grew up in Utah and watched Smitty and Gross play college ball at the “U”. When I moved to Charlotte in 2003 I instantly because a die hard Panther fan. Through all the ups and downs I love this team and who plays on it.
    My impression is that most people that are bias against Smitty really don’t know the man. Granted I know I don’t know him personally, but I have had the opportunity of bumping into him from time to time around S. Charlotte. He acts as if he is just a regular dude just out and about.
    Keep up the great work on this blog… I will be checking back regularly for sure.

    • Garret says:

      Thanks bro, I appreciate all that.
      If only we had a team full of Steve Smiths, I saw him at Zapatas Mexican Restaurant once, where have you seen him?

  2. presidentmiraflores says:

    Nice article. I’m glad to see Smith having such a resurgence. I think what gets lost sometimes in the commentary on his temper is that it is his desire to win and for the team to be great that causes him to boil over at times. Should he be more mature than that by now? Maybe, but I think you have to take the good with the bad with him. That ferocity will fuel him in ripping a ball out of a safety’s hands, in returning a punt for a TD for their only one of the game in the NFC Championship against Seattle years back, but will also cause him to start a fight on occasion.

  3. Pingback: Cam Newton’s New Gatorade Endorsement? | Agron Street

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