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No Matter Who Was At Helm, Smith Thrived

Posted by Stephen Czarda on June 6, 2013 – 1:00 pm

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Over the next few weeks we will be looking back on some Redskins greats for their heroics on the field as well as off of it. Today, Redskins.com intern Jamie Lockie looks back at the long career of Jerry Smith. 

One of the most recognizable and popular Redskins players of his era, Jerry Smith was knowingly one of the best football players around.

Thirsty six years ago this season, he’s remains a player who vastly improved the Redskins’ image and still remains one of the greatest in Burgundy and Gold history and remains one of only 44 in franchise history, coaches and officials included, in the Ring of Fame.

Jerry Smith came to the Redskins in 1965 from Arizona State as a split end. In 1966 he was moved to tight end in mid-season when Charley Taylor was moved from running back to wide receiver.  That season, he caught 54 passes from Sonny Jurgensen to lead all tight ends.

With two full years in the NFL under his belt and a strong rapport with the Hall of Fame gunslinger, the former Sun Devil showed the league that a tight end can be just as dangerous in the passing game. On the second rated passing offense he caught 67 passes (an NFL record by tight ends at the time) for 849 yards and 12 touchdowns, second highest in the league.

With Jurgensen passing and Bobby Mitchell, Taylor and Smith catching, the Redskins became one of the most exciting teams in the NFL, selling out all their home games and setting attendance benchmarks. At the time, the Redskins sold out RFK Stadium an NFL-record 149 consecutive times.

Smith would soon be ranked among the top-10 pass receivers in the league for four consecutive seasons, from 1966 to 1969.

In the coming years, he continued posting huge numbers in D.C. as part of one of the most lethal offensive attacks in NFL history.  In 1967, receiver Charley Taylor finished first in receptions, Smith second and Mitchell fourth—not on the team but in the entire league.

For some when a coaching change takes place, they struggle to adjust to the new regime. Discredit Smith from any hardships.

With Otto Graham being fired after a mediocre three-year stint, it was time for the Redskins to hire an established coach who knew how to win—so they hired this guy by the name of Vince Lombardi.

(AP Image)

(AP Image)

He thrived under Lombardi’s lone year in our Nation’s Capital, with a team-high nine touchdown catches.

When George Allen became coach in 1971 and installed Billy Kilmer as quarterback, Smith once again adjusted with ease. While his receptions went down, his knack to find the end zone remained unfazed. On the first Redskins team to appear in a Super Bowl, Smith recorded a team-high seven touchdown catches on only 21 catches.

Smith was named All-Pro twice and recorded numerous NFL records.

Sports Illustrated  called him “an outstanding receiver among tight ends, with the ability to break open for a long gain.”

In his career Smith caught 421 passes for 5,496 yards, including 60 touchdowns , a record for tight ends at the time. After 13 seasons as a tight end with the Washington Redskins, he was inducted in the Washington Hall of Stars.

To this day, Smith still holds the record for most touchdowns as a tight end in franchise history.

After his retirement from professional football in 1978, Smith ran his own construction company here in the Virginia area, opened a restaurant in Texas and worked in the mortgage business. He played golf, and like many retired professional athletes, attempted to keep fit with regular workouts.

Fifth all-time on the Redskins’ list for career receptions with 421, sixth all-time in Redskins’ history in receiving yards with 5,496, Jerry Smith had an untimely death in 1986 at the age of 43.

He will never be forgotten.

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One Response to “No Matter Who Was At Helm, Smith Thrived”

  1. By educationalvision on Jun 7, 2013 | Reply

    Smith was a great tight end. What I remember most was his great hands!!

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