Former WR Jimmy Smith to be inducted into Pride of the Jaguars

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When Jimmy Smith answered a call from an unfamiliar number Saturday and heard Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan's voice, he knew the moment he had been waiting for had finally arrived.

Smith was going to be inducted into the Pride of the Jaguars, the team's name for its ring of honor.

"My heart started beating fast," Smith said Tuesday. "I couldn't catch my breath."

The induction ceremony will take place Dec. 11, when the Jaguars play host to the Minnesota Vikings. He will become the sixth person inducted into the Pride, joining Tony Boselli, Wayne and Delores Weaver, Fred Taylor and Mark Brunell.

Smith, who retired from the NFL in May 2006, had hoped he wouldn't have to wait this long to get that call, but he understands why the team waited 10 years. His five arrests -- for DUI and drug and firearm possession -- and time spent in prison made it difficult for the Jaguars to invite him to join the Pride.

Smith, 47, has avoided trouble since his release from prison in Mississippi in 2013 and said he's working hard to make sure he continues to do so.

"I thought [the Pride induction] would have happened sooner, but God has a plan for us all," Smith said. "Lately it just seems like since I turned my life over to God I've been getting these gifts from God, and this is one of them. The timing is perfect because had I not gone through some of these off-field issues I wouldn't be the person I am today.

"I've definitely matured and I hope this could be an inspiration to someone else. We all have problems. Everybody has issues and has problems. It's just, how do you deal with those problems and how do you come out of it? The work is not over with me, by any means."

Cocaine was one of the charges that led to Smith's prison sentence. He said Tuesday that he still battles his addiction, but he's proud of how he has handled that fight and he hopes others in a similar situation draw strength from his example.

"Struggling with an addiction, it's every day," Smith said. "It's not like you're hooked this day and it's gone tomorrow. I have to live my life in recovery as a reminder of what I've gone through and where I am today and not go back there.

"It's the beginning of the second chapter of my life. It's going to be a lot of hard work. I've got a job to do and it's up to me to go out there and be a role model."

Smith was one of the best players in the NFL during his time with the Jaguars. He is the team's career leader in receptions (862), receiving yards (12,287) and touchdown catches (67). He had seven consecutive seasons in which he had more than 1,000 receiving yards -- including a team-record 1,636 in 1999 -- and surpassed that mark nine times during his 11-year career with the team.

Smith also owns franchise records for most receiving yards in a game (291 yards against Baltimore in 2000), most receptions in a season (116 in 1999) and most 100-yard games in a season (nine in 1999). Those marks came during a stretch when Smith made five consecutive Pro Bowls from 1997 to 2001. Smith caught 112 passes for 1,373 yards and eight touchdowns in 2001 despite having three surgeries early in the year to remove scar tissue from his abdomen.

Smith was able to have an impressive career despite a rocky beginning. He was drafted in the second round (36th overall) by the Dallas Cowboys in 1992 but broke his leg and missed most of his rookie season. He had an emergency appendectomy in August of 1993 and suffered through a subsequent infection that nearly killed him.

The Cowboys waived Smith in July of 1994 after he wouldn't accept a pay cut. He was signed by Philadelphia days later but didn't make the roster and was out of football for the entire season. Smith's mother sent then-Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin a folder of his press clippings; Smith earned a tryout and was signed in February 1995.

"There is no question that Jimmy Smith was one of the best players to ever wear a Jaguars uniform," Khan said in a statement. "His contributions in the early years were critical to the success the Jaguars enjoyed during that time. The fact that most of his records have stood for 10 years without being surpassed underscores what a great player he was.

"I wish I had personally seen Jimmy play more frequently but I am very happy that we will appropriately honor him at EverBank Field in December."

Smith has a long list of off-the-field problems. He was arrested three times in Jacksonville, though only one came during his playing career. That came in 2001 when he was pulled over for speeding and suspicion of drunken driving. Traces of cocaine were later found in his system and that landed him in the NFL's substance-abuse program.

Smith was suspended for the first four games of the 2003 season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. He admitted he had a drug problem and spent several weeks in rehab. Smith retired abruptly in May 2006 -- after catching 70 passes for 1,023 yards in 2005 -- and denied rumors that he was facing a yearlong suspension. Things went downhill for Smith quickly after that.

He was arrested in Jacksonville in 2008 (DUI and possession of marijuana) and 2009 (possession of crack cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia).

Smith also was arrested twice in Mississippi. He was charged with cocaine possession during a traffic stop in February 2010. He pleaded guilty in July 2012 and was placed on probation and given a 10-year suspended sentence.

He was arrested in December 2012 after a rifle was found in his car during another traffic stop, a violation of his probation. Police also found marijuana in his car. Smith pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in prison; his probation was revoked from the prior incident and he was sentenced to an additional four years.

The type of crime for which he was convicted made him eligible for an intense supervision program, allowing him to be released from prison in June 2013 and placed on house arrest in Mississippi. He was released from house arrest in June 2014 and is on parole until March 10, 2017.

Smith was back at EverBank Field on Nov. 30, 2014, for the Jaguars' home game against the New York Giants to take part in the team's alumni weekend. He said it was his first time at the stadium since 2008 or 2009.

"I'm extremely grateful, extremely thankful," Smith said. "I'm definitely proud and emotional right now. It's been a long time coming. Been a lot of ups and downs, but I persevered."