“It’s not the end, but it’s a new beginning.”
It was with that statement that former Jaguars WR Jimmy Smith summed up his thoughts about being the latest player to be invited to join The Pride of the Jaguars. Smith’s statistics are gaudy by any measure of wide receivers in the NFL and outsized when it comes to the Jaguars record books. Smith still holds at least 11 team records a full decade after his retirement.
When the call came from Jaguars Owner Shad Khan on Saturday, Smith almost didn’t pick up the phone. It was a strange number with a 217 area code and Jimmy admitted he usually doesn’t answer numbers he doesn’t know. But he had a feeling and was glad he did.
“My heart started beating fast and I couldn’t catch my breath,” Smith explained on Tuesday. “[He said], ‘Jimmy this is Shad Khan with the Jacksonville Jaguars,’ and he began to say thanks so much for my service for the Jaguars and what I’ve done during my time there and how engaging I am to the community and how engaging I am social media and that they were extremely proud of me.”
Through his drug addiction and legal woes, Smith has had a support group of fans, family, friends, teammates and coaches. He was quick to thank them for sticking by him and credited his new-found spiritual conviction for getting him to a new place in his life.
“I’m just happy that God has allowed me to be resilient and persevere and show that you can turn your life around and still be on top.”
Smith singled out Tom Coughlin, Keenan McCardell, Mark Brunell, Fred Taylor, Tony Boselli and the Weavers as particular supporters who have helped.
In conversation with Taylor, a former teammate and the first to call and congratulate him, Smith said he understands the responsibility that comes with joining The Pride.
“I love him, but he was just talking to me about the importance of having your name in that stadium and the responsibilities that are going to come with it. And that’s being a good role model and being someone who can help someone else. It means a lot to me.”
“But you got to do more than that and I think being in the Pride represents what you do in the community, how you treat people, how you engage people,” Smith explained
Because of his legal woes, Jimmy knew any post-career accolades would be delayed until he got himself straightened out.
“Everybody has issues and has problems. It’s just how do you deal with those problems and how do you come out of it? I feel like the work is not over with by any means. The work’s not over. Struggling with an addiction is every day. It’s not like you got it fixed this day and gone tomorrow. So I have to live my life in recovery as a reminder of what I’ve gone through and where I am today and how I’ve persevered, and not to go back there again. That’s what I mean when the work is just beginning. It’s not the end, it’s the beginning of the second chapter of my life. It’s going to be a lot of hard work and I got a job to do. It’s up to me to go out there and be a role model for those that are in need.”
As excited as he was to have his name on the stadium (“It gives me chills) Smith was equally animated about the current crop of Jaguars and the help he can provide to the wide receiving corps.
“They have a jump on us. It’s just a matter of them being consistent, it’s a matter of taking care of their bodies, being healthy, and making sure their home life is straight. Hopefully that is something that guys like us, the alumni, can help the new guys with, consulting with them and helping them maintain their edge in order to be successful.”
Smith singled out Marqise Lee as a perfect example of somebody he can help. “I would say take a look at the guys before him. Take a look at my career, take a look at Keenan’s career. We didn’t have the immediate success, we just had to learn. It’s just like in college – that redshirt freshman year where your body is catching up. For Marqise Lee he just has to learn to get in that weight room and get on that good diet and nutrition and master his craft. It’ll come. It’ll come. It will come soon.”
And as far as the other half of the “Thunder and Lightning” duo becoming a member of The Pride? Jimmy says Keenan also deserves his own day.
“Yes. It is just a definite yes. Originally it would be cool, because I remember hearing Mark say this, that both of us would be good going in together. But if you really think about with what each one of us has done – I think I myself and Keenan also feel like this a time where we need our own individual stage. Yes, we were considered one of the best tandems in the NFL, thunder and lightning, but we are both individuals and to continue to work we both need our days in the sun. Definitely I want to see my boy Keenan get in there.”
With Smith’s induction, McCardell deserves serious consideration. Tom Coughlin is a must. Brad Meester embodied everything you’d want a pro athlete in your town to be. And Maurice Jones Drew carried the franchise through some rough times.
Notice that there are no defensive players on the wall or on the list. Perhaps Rashean Mathis might be the first. Hopefully some of the defensive players currently on the roster will fulfill their potential, and careers here in town and put their names up there in the future.