I guess I’m supposed to be mad at Jimmy Smith. I sat in his living room nearly two years ago, doing a live broadcast for Channel 4, two days after Smith was charged with DUI and, according to police, tested positive for cocaine. Smith maintained that the test was a police mistake and said he wasn’t a drug user, hadn’t been in the past and didn’t plan on it in the future.
Now, of course, we know that was a lie.
But it was a part of a pattern that Smith had developed over a couple of years. The night before, Smith had committed to an appearance on our weekly show “The End Zone” only to not show. The year before, Smith had agreed to join Keenan McCardell as a co-host of “The End Zone” only to not show for the contract signing with no explanation. All the signs were there, the lifestyle, the notoriety, the availability, and the cash on hand and now police evidence that Jimmy Smith was in trouble.
But he denied it.
Flat out, looked into the camera and said he didn’t do it. Told Wayne Weaver and Tom Coughlin the same thing. Sold the story to his teammates, the fans and the media. Eventually the charges were dropped and the whole thing kind of went away. But Smith had spent the reservoir of good will he had built up during his time in Jacksonville as a Jaguar. He was known as somebody who was involved in charity work, was accommodating to the fans, and produced on the field. When he got in trouble, he was given a free pass by just about everybody, even those who thought he was guilty and lying. He had a chance, right then, to throw his hands up and say, “I’m in trouble and I need help,” and people would have rushed to the rescue.
But he didn’t. He lied instead and continued the farce.
He had medical problems, enduring three abdominal surgeries, only to return to the field and light up the opponents. He held out during last year’s training camp, until Weaver acquiesced and gave him a bucket full of money. And now he’s suspended for four games and has voluntarily entered an undisclosed treatment program. No wonder the Jaguars’ owner was furious when he heard the news.
After allegedly missing a mandatory drug test, the NFL imposed the next level of punishment on Smith, forcing him out of the Jaguars lineup and into treatment. Smith could have stayed with the team until the regular season started, but instead chose to leave immediately to seek help. That’s about the first good sign for Jimmy Smith.
There have been hundreds of guys who have fallen to the temptations of the high living lifestyle, and all have been given some kind of “wake up call” at one point or another. That’s when they have to choose to get their lives straight, or continue on a path that leads to more trouble. It might be about two years late, but Smith is at that spot right now. He can either get his life straight, or continue to think he’s fooling everybody. Smith has put a permanent black mark next to his name as a professional athlete, and as one fan said, “Brought dishonor to his name and to his family.” He’s out of goodwill from the fans. He has nothing left to spend.
I’m not mad at Jimmy Smith. I’m disappointed that he didn’t trust somebody enough to tell them the truth and get some help. More than anything, I feel sorry for him right now. He’s got a long road ahead of him.