Steve Smith made it clear following the final game of the season that it was the end of his career in the NFL.
On Friday morning, Smith made his official retirement letter to commissioner Rodger Goodell public. Let’s just say it wasn’t your normal letter of retirement or resignation. Instead, Smith signed out with a “I will no longer by antagonizing defensive backs” blast that is just so fitting.
— Steve Smith Sr (@89SteveSmith) January 6, 2017
Naturally, Smith would find a brash and hilarious way to sign off from the NFL. It simply wouldn’t be in his nature not to do that.
He also has earned that right as one of the most productive wide receivers of his generation. In a day when most wide receivers don’t make it in to their early 30s, let alone their late 30s, Smith’s longevity and production level has been incredible to watch.
Smith was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the third round of the 2001 NFL Draft and would go on to play 16 seasons in the league. He played 13 of those 16 years in the Panther blue and black before signing with the Baltimore Ravens as a free agent for his final three NFL seasons.
Amazingly, he finished with just over 1,000 career receptions (1,031, to be exact) and was selected to the Pro Bowl four times in his career. Smith’s biggest season came in 2005, when he put up 103 receptions for 1,563 yards and 12 touchdowns.
He would never top the 100-reception mark again in his career, but it was far from an unproductive career after that moment. After all, he signed off with a 70-reception season in 2016, a season that included 799 yards and six touchdowns at the age of 37 and just a year removed from an torn Achilles tendon.
Smith would also top the 1,000-yard mark eight times in his career, including the first of his final three seasons in the league with the Ravens.
That kind of a career earns one a lot of respect inside the league, but he also seems to have a ton of respect outside of the NFL itself. Even the city of Charlotte has chimed in on his career following this announcement.
— City of Charlotte (@CLTgov) January 6, 2017
It shouldn’t be surprising, as Smith has been an active participant in the communities that he has represented during his career.
We’ll all miss his “we’re going to take your applesauce, we’re going to take your spork and break it” lines. There simply won’t be another character like him on and off the field.