JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jimmy Smith cleared his throat,
finished his sentence and then bowed his head and started to cry.
One of the most prolific receivers in NFL history, Smith found
himself in another rough spot Thursday. But just as he has done so
many times before in his career, he regrouped and moved on without
No wonder he earned the nickname J-Smooth.
Smith, a five-time Pro Bowl selection who overcame several
health problems and drug addiction during his 13 seasons, abruptly
retired Thursday to "move on to the next phase of my life."
"It's hard because I know I can still go out there and do it,"
Smith said. "I just figure it's not in my heart to [continue]. If
I'm going to play, it's got to be 100 percent. I won't get out
there and not give it my all. If I can't give it my all to this
organization and the fans, I'm just not going to do that. This is
just not the type of person that I am.
"It's best for me to leave on a high note. I want to be able to
enjoy my legacy."
The 37-year-old receiver led the Jags with 70 catches for 1,023
yards and six touchdowns last season. He ranks seventh in NFL
history with 862 receptions and 11th with 12,287 yards receiving.
He has more receptions than every receiver in the Hall of Fame, and
only Marvin Harrison has had more catches and yards receiving than
Smith since 1996.
Smith contemplated retirement earlier this offseason, but
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio asked him to take his time and be sure
he was making the right choice. His announcement came a day before
the team opened a three-day mini-camp.
"I thought I had another year in me," Smith said. "I've been
struggling with whether I should play an extra year or leave while
I can still walk away, while my knees are still intact.
"It's best to leave on top. Not many players in the NFL get a
chance to do what I'm doing today and walk away from the game
happy. I can live the rest of my life happy."
Smith's longevity was surprising -- even to him -- especially
considering what he overcame.
In 2001, he had three operations to remove scar tissue from his
abdomen. Some questioned whether he would play again, but he caught
112 passes for 1,373 yards -- despite being arrested in November
that year for suspicion of drunken driving. Tests later revealed he
had cocaine in his system. He vehemently denied using the drug.
He was suspended for the first four games of the 2003 season for
violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He then publicly
acknowledged an addiction and spent several weeks in rehab.
He had other issues early in his career, too.
The third receiver selected in the 1992 draft behind Desmond
Howard and Carl Pickens, Smith broke his leg and missed most of his
rookie season. In 1993, he needed an emergency appendectomy and
suffered through infection and stomach problems. He missed the
entire year. He didn't play in 1994, either, after getting cut by
Dallas and Philadelphia.
In 1995, he caught on with the expansion Jaguars after his
mother sent coach Tom Coughlin a binder of press clippings to help
him earn a tryout.
He made the most of his chance, teaming with Keenan McCardell to
help land the Jaguars in the playoffs in only their second season.
"He was one of the great Jaguars and certainly one of the great
receivers in NFL history," said James Harris, the team's vice
president of player personnel. "Jimmy is not one of the most
acclaimed guys, but he's one of the most respected receivers in the
"Most people will say that he's one of the best pure route
runners in the game, and we all hate to see Jimmy go."