Rod Smith is the greatest undrafted wide receiver of all time. People will argue that isn’t enough to get him inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They will also argue that his undrafted status shouldn’t even be considered. While I agree with the first statement, because he has more than enough merits to get in, I don’t agree with the second. His undrafted status should be taken into account when voters decide his fate. Here’s why.
When a player is drafted he is given many opportunities to take the field early and often. On the other hand, a player who goes undrafted has to fight to make the team and must go above and beyond to prove himself ready to play on the gridiron.
Smith came into the league in 1994 and didn’t see the field until late September 1995. He was not given many opportunities (although he seized them with both hands) that year even though his first catch was a game winning touchdown. What this ramble is trying to point out is; had Smith been drafted he would have seen the field faster and started compiling statistics, which voters love, much sooner. Instead of 6 catches in ’95 and 16 in ’96, maybe it would have looked more like 30 in ’94, 60, in ’95 and then 70 in ’96. He had the talent to create those types of numbers. That would have pushed him over the 1,000 career reception mark and easily past the 13,000 career yards mark.
Putting that aside Smith still has the credentials to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He has two Super Bowl victories, went to the Pro Bowl three times, and was selected as an All-Pro twice. His 152 yards receiving in Super Bowl XXXIII was fourth best in history at the time. He also had eight seasons of at least 1,000 yards receiving.
For his career, Smith had 849 receptions, 11,389 yard receiving and 68 touchdowns. At the time of his retirement his reception total ranked him 14th all-time and his receiving yards ranked him 9th all-time. Most of the receivers ahead of him have been inducted into Canton.
His receiving yards are the most by any undrafted player. No other undrafted player has even reached the 10,000 yards receiving mark.
Smith has the numbers and an incredible story to go with them. Undrafted, struggled to make the team and then became the most decorated receiver in Denver Broncos history. More than that Smith played with his heart and soul every game. In fact he played every down like it was his last and it showed on the field. His heart alone should warrant the bronze bust, but his career accolades are more than enough.