Legendary wide receiver Jimmy Smith is the perfect epitome of patience.
His NFL career didn’t get off to a great start: he never had a catch with the Dallas Cowboys yet earned two Super Bowl rings with them.
Smith even sat out two of his first three NFL seasons
When the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars signed him in 1995, nobody would’ve thought he’d become one of the best wide receivers in team history.
Smith, the wide receiver nicknamed “Silk,” set an insane 31 Jaguars franchise records when he retired in 2006.
He eventually became a member of the Pride of the Jaguars more than a decade later.
If Jimmy Smith somehow makes it to Canton, he’d solidify his status as one of the best wideouts ever.
Jimmy Lee Smith, Jr. was born to parents Jimmy and Etta in Detroit, MI on February 9, 1969.
His father played briefly for the Cincinnati Bengals in 1968. Jimmy, Sr. eventually set up his own trucking business once he hung up his cleats.
On the other hand, his wife Etta was a school administrator in Jackson, MS.
Whenever Jimmy, Jr. scored a touchdown in Pop Warner football, his mother would run up and down the sidelines cheering him on, per SI.com’s Michael Silver.
Smith attended Callaway High School in Jackson, MS.
He was a standout wide receiver for the Callaway Chargers.
Smith was one of the top 40 recruits in the state of Mississippi. He also earned All-Conference and All-State honors as a senior.
Smith’s high school teammates nicknamed him “Silk” because he had a penchant for making big plays look routine.
Despite Jimmy Smith’s tremendous upside, Division I recruiters didn’t pay too much attention to him.
Instead, he received a scholarship offer from Jackson State University.
Jimmy State remained in-state and would establish himself as one of the best wide receivers in the college football ranks.
College Days With The Jackson State Tigers
Jimmy Smith remained in his hometown and attended Jackson State University during his college days from 1987 to 1991.
He majored in business administration at Jackson State.
Smith became the Tigers’ starting wide receiver in his junior season in 1989. He and Tim Barnett became the top wide receiver tandem in Division I-AA that year.
Smith had 877 receiving yards and nine touchdowns on a team-leading 40 receptions as a junior. He had 184 receiving yards and a school-record three touchdowns on four receptions against the Southern Jaguars.
Former Jackson State an NFL star Jimmy Smith on JSUTV pic.twitter.com/r1T1Bvzhi6
— Rob Jay (@robjaykappa) October 3, 2014
Smith had a team-leading 803 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 43 catches a year later. He had a school-record 10 receptions for 239 yards and a touchdown against the Delaware State Hornets in his senior campaign.
Smith eventually earned Second-Team All-SWAC honors in 1991.
He finished his stint at Jackson state with 2,073 yards and 16 touchdowns on 110 receptions.
Jimmy Smith would go on to become one of the best wide receivers in Jacksonville Jaguars franchise history.
Pro Football Career
The Dallas Cowboys made Jimmy Smith the 36th overall selection of the 1992 NFL Draft.
Smith revealed to FanSided’s Matt Lombardo (via BlackAndTeal.com’s Carlos Sanchez) 29 years later that Pro Football Hall of Fame Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin made a huge impact on him as a rookie:
“Michael Irvin is who I learned from. The mentality, the competitiveness that Michael Irvin displayed, the leadership in the locker room, the passion, the love for the game.”
“It was great to experience that in ’92, in ’93 – the two Super Bowl runs I was part of.”
— Jimmy Smith (@JimmySmithJags) May 1, 2021
Smith joined the Cowboys during their glory years in the National Football League.
Dallas had Irvin, quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith, fullback Daryl “Moose” Johnston, and strong safety Darren Woodson when Smith came aboard in 1992.
Unfortunately, Jimmy Smith hardly played in his two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. He suited up in just seven games for Dallas’ special teams unit because of a broken leg.
The Cowboys were a juggernaut that went 13-3 in Smith’s rookie season. Smith played on special teams and got his first taste of NFL postseason action when Dallas annihilated the Philadelphia Eagles, 34-10.
The Cowboys went on to win their third Vince Lombard Trophy when they routed the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII, 52-17.
Jimmy Smith earned a Super Bowl ring in his rookie season.
Regrettably, things turned worse for Smith during his sophomore campaign in the pro ranks.
According to Silver, Smith complained of stomach pain prior to his second year with the Dallas Cowboys in 1993.
Doctors at a Dallas hospital removed Smith’s appendix and they discharged him a day later.
However, the pain returned and Smith experienced high-grade fever the next few days.
When Smith’s physicians examined him at the hospital, they determined the appendix could’ve leaked and that his stomach had several pockets of pus lining them.
Surgeons removed the abscesses with drugs and they patched up a tear in his intestines.
Jimmy Smith. If he hadn’t been hurt with the cowboys (burst appendix) he would have stayed a Cowboy. Think of how that changes things. No Galloway and Roy Williams trades. The ripple effect is huge.
— Dawson Hobbs (@Russ4816) March 30, 2020
Prior to Smith’s second surgery, a medical technician who went over his lab tests gave his mother a scripture from the Bible. He told her the scripture was about a mother’s prayer for her son, per SI.com.
While Jimmy Smith survived the ordeal, he still had to deal with other issues.
When he returned to his apartment unit after three weeks in the hospital, he wore a colostomy bag that doctors feared he could wear for the rest of his life.
Fortunately, he wore it for just three months. However, he had to endure blood clots and bed sores during that time frame. He also lost 30 pounds.
When Smith reported for the start of the 1993 NFL campaign, Cowboys owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones placed him on the team’s reserve/non-football injury list.
That meant Dallas wasn’t obligated to shell out his $350,000 salary.
Smith told Silver the turn of events was “adding insult to injury.”
He eventually filed a grievance through the NFL Players Association. Roughly three months later, an arbitrator determined Smith’s appendicitis was related to football. The ruling allowed him to receive his salary and playoff bonuses.
Smith sat out the entire 1993 NFL season because of his abdominal issues. He earned his second Super Bowl ring after the Cowboys beat the Bills in a rematch, 30-13.
Jones told Smith in the summer of 1994 the Cowboys would release him if he didn’t take a pay cut. Smith figured he was skating on thin ice in Dallas anyway, so he refused.
New Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer was also at the meeting with Jones and Smith.
Switzer told Smith he knew his nickname was “Silk.” However, he had yet to see that on the gridiron.
Smith admitted to Silver seven years later half of him wanted to punch Switzer while the other half wanted to laugh.
Jimmy Smith’s tenure with the Cowboys officially ended with two Super Bowl rings and no catches.
The Philadelphia Eagles signed Smith eight days after the Cowboys released him. When they made their final roster cuts, Smith was one of them.
Eagles cornerback Mark McMillian saw something in Smith during his brief tenure in Philadelphia. He dubbed him “the best pure athlete” on their roster, per Silver.
McMillian even compared Smith to legendary Minnesota Vikings wideout Cris Carter because of his versatility.
Smith returned to his hometown of Jackson, MS in a state of despondency. His friend and Jackson State Tigers teammate Isaiah Morehouse noticed his other buddies thought his best days on the football field were behind him.
Smith moved in with his future wife Sandra Coverson, who he started dating almost a year earlier. He saw her after she got off work at a bank wearing a long sweater dress.
Despite not seeing Sandra’s face, Smith asked a mutual friend to introduce him anyway. The rest was history.
While Coverson worked, Smith watched television at home hoping an NFL team would call and sign him up.
No call happened. Jimmy Smith sat out the entire 1994 NFL season
While Smith was in limbo, his girlfriend asked him to do household chores to keep himself busy. The mundane tasks such as folding clothes motivated Smith to stay off the couch.
Fate waited for Jimmy Smith some 600 miles east of Jackson, MS.
It turned out Jacksonville Jaguars director of pro personnel Ron Hill had been calling Smith’s parents every day for two months.
Jimmy and Etta Smith persuaded their son to work out for the expansion Jaguars in 1995. Jimmy, Jr. wasn’t too keen on the idea. He also had previously expressed disinterest in playing for football teams in Canada and Europe.
However, he finally relented
Just before Jimmy Smith, Jr. flew to Jacksonville, his mother filled a notebook with articles and newsletters that had him as the main subject. She wrote, “All I Need Is A Chance” as the title of the scrapbook she created, per Silver.
In an ironic twist of fate, Smith didn’t fulfill his promise of handing over the notebook to Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin.
Instead, he gave it to Jaguars wide receivers coach Pete Carmichael.
Smith admitted to SI.com during the pinnacle of his NFL success in 2000 he thought Coughlin didn’t know him from Adam. He felt giving the notebook to Carmichael was crucial in Jacksonville’s decision to sign him for their expansion year in 1995.
If Michael Irvin was Jimmy Smith’s mentor in Dallas, Andre “Bad Moon” Rison was instrumental in Smith’s evolution as a go-to wide receiver with the Jaguars.
Smith gave credit to Rison for instilling in him the belief nobody could cover him, per Silver.
When the Jaguars released Rison 11 games into the 1996 NFL season, Smith took over as the starting wideout.
Jimmy Smith, Jr. never looked back since then.
— Jimmy Smith (@JimmySmithJags) January 6, 2022
During Smith’s playing days with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he and fellow wide receiver Keenan McCardell (who’s currently the Jaguars’ wide receivers coach) would form their formidable “Thunder and Lightning” duo.
Smith and McCardell combined for nearly 24,000 career receiving yards. During their time together in Jacksonville from 1996 to 2001, they had a combined 18,680 receiving yards.
The Jaguars averaged ten wins per season during that span when Smith and McCardell tore up defensive backs week in and week out.
It wasn’t unusual for Smith and McCardell to set the stat sheets on fire every time they took the field. However, they didn’t get the recognition they deserved.
Smith attributed the lack of recognition to playing in a small market such as Jacksonville, per SI.com’s John Shipley.
Had the duo played in a bigger market such as Los Angeles, Dallas, or New York, they would’ve made more headlines.
— Jimmy Smith (@JimmySmithJags) December 7, 2021
Jacksonville reached the AFC Championship Game in 1996 and 1999. It would take another eighteen years before the Jaguars would go that far in the postseason.
Nonetheless, Smith had at least 1,023 yards in nine of his 10 seasons with the Jaguars.
To nobody’s surprise, Jimmy Smith earned five Pro Bowl berths from 1997 to 2001. He was also a Second-Team All-Pro selection in the 1998 and 1999 NFL seasons.
Smith used his deceptive speed to befuddle the league’s best cornerbacks. He also used his run-blocking skills to open up holes for Jaguars running back Fred Taylor.
Former Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams told SI.com in 2000 Smith never complained despite taking vicious hits from Titans defensive backs. Smith’s calm demeanor won Williams over – he was hardly intimidated on the gridiron.
Titans head coach Jeff Fisher paid Smith an even bigger compliment: he called him “the best receiver in football,” per Silver.
Just about the only time Smith caved into the pressure was when he shouldered most of the Jaguars’ scoring load in the 1999 NFL season.
The tension between Coughlin and quarterback Mark Brunell took its toll on the Jaguars’ offense. Smith had to pick up the slack.
When he got home, he acted cold and distant toward his wife Sandra, per SI.com.
Smith also revealed to Silver he had just one eye that season because he had to deal with a cataract and nearsightedness. He never told anyone – even his wife – about his predicament. He eventually underwent off-season eye surgery to correct the issues.
— Jimmy Smith (@JimmySmithJags) November 4, 2021
Jimmy Smith retired from the National Football League at the end of the 2005 NFL season.
He had 12,287 receiving yards and 67 touchdowns on 862 receptions in his 14-year NFL career.
Smith holds three NFL records including most games with at least five receptions in a season (16), most consecutive games with at least five receptions (21), and most games with at least 49 receiving yards in a season (16).
He also holds 31 Jacksonville Jaguars franchise records as of the 2017 NFL season, including:
- Most career receptions (862)
- Most receptions in a season (116)
- Most career receiving yards (12,287)
- Most receiving yards in a season (1,636)
- Career receiving touchdowns (67)
- Receiving touchdowns in a game (three)
Smith told Shipley in June 2020 his Jacksonville stint was a huge part of his life:
“Big part of my life. Probably the happiest time of my life (was) spending time in Jacksonville,” Smith said.
Smith also said he missed the beaches, the locals, and the relationships he forged during his time in Northern Florida. He said people always welcome him warmly every time he visits Jacksonville, which he fondly called “home,” per SI.com.
Jimmy Smith, his wife Sandra, and their seven children reside in Jackson, MS.
The Jackson State Tigers made Smith a member of their All-Century Team on August 13, 2011.
Smith began a six-year prison sentence in May 2013 for allegations of cocaine and firearms possession.
This wasn’t Smith’s first run-in with the law.
Police arrested Smith for a narcotics possession charge in Jacksonville, FL four years earlier. He spent 90 days in a Houston, TX drug rehabilitation facility afterward.
Smith’s son Trey committed to the Louisville Cardinals football program on September 3, 2014.
The older Smith had ties with then-Cardinals head football coach Bobby Petrino, The two had worked previously together in the 2001 NFL season. Petrino served as the Jaguars’ offensive coordinator that year. He was also Jacksonville’s quarterbacks coach the previous two seasons.
His name is Trey Smith!💯🙌🏽😎 pic.twitter.com/xPxAYklkpa
— Jimmy Smith (@JimmySmithJags) September 5, 2021
Trey Smith eventually transferred and played running back for the Wyoming Cowboys.
Jimmy Smith’s other sons also want to play football in one way or another, per SI.com. It’s clear football runs deep in their bloodline.
Smith became a member of the Pride of the Jaguars on December 11, 2016.
Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan spoke highly of Smith prior to his induction, per the Jaguars’ official website:
“There is no question that Jimmy Smith was one of the best players to ever wear a Jaguars uniform.”
“His contributions in the early years were critical to the success of the Jaguars 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.”
Smith revealed to Shipley in 2020 Khan’s son Tony, who serves as Jaguars co-owner and senior vice president of football administration and technology, vouched for his induction into the Pride of the Jaguars.
When Shad Khan was poring over highlights of the Jaguars’ golden years, he told Smith he couldn’t find one that doesn’t include him.
Smith is currently the only wide receiver in the Pride of the Jaguars.
Smith became a nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2021 class in September 2020. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the cut.
While Jimmy Smith hasn’t made it to Canton yet, he told SI.com in 2020 that becoming a member of the Pride of the Jaguars was a huge honor:
“Being in the Pride of the Jaguars has made more of an impact in my life than being nominated for the (Pro Football) Hall of Fame.”
“I’m extremely grateful for being in the Pride, and hopefully one day it will propel me to get into the Hall of Fame.”
Smith, a legendary Jaguars wide receiver, was upset with former Jacksonville head coach Urban Meyer in the wake of his firing in December 2021.
In an interview with CBS Sports Radio’s “The Zach Gelb Show” (via FOXNews.com’s Ryan Gaydos), Smith voiced his displeasure with Meyer who allegedly kicked Jaguars’ kicker Josh Lambo and danced with a younger woman in a Columbus, OH night club.
Smith fumed at Meyer’s shenanigans. The latter dubbed himself a “cheerleader” for the controversial head coach prior to his hiring.
When Meyer made headlines for the wrong reasons, Smith told Gelb “I got an egg on my face.”
Smith also mentioned in the interview he didn’t want any conversation with Meyer after he fell out of favor with owner Shad Khan and Co.
Smith was also concerned the Jaguars may have wasted a year of rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence’s career in light of Jacksonville’s tumultuous 2021 NFL season.
— Jimmy Smith (@JimmySmithJags) November 22, 2021
The Jackson State Hall of Fame inducted Jimmy Smith in November 2021.