Jerry Smith (American football)

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For the American football coach, see Jerry Smith (coach).
Jerry Smith
No. 87
Position: Tight end
Personal information
Date of birth: (1943-07-19)July 19, 1943
Place of birth: Eugene, Oregon
Date of death: October 15, 1986(1986-10-15) (aged 43)
Place of death: Silver Spring, Maryland
Career information
High school: San Lorenzo (CA)
College: Arizona State
NFL draft: 1965 / Round: 9 / Pick: 118
AFL draft: 1965 / Round: 18 / Pick: 141
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Receiving yards: 5,496
Average: 13.1
Touchdowns: 60
Stats at NFL.com

Gerald "Jerry" Sanford Smith (July 19, 1943 – October 15, 1986) was a professional American football tight end for the National Football League's Washington Redskins from 1965–1977. By the time he retired he held the NFL record for most career touchdowns by a tight end.[1] A 2014 documentary from the NFL Network's A Football Life series profiles his career, as well as his "double life as a closeted gay man and a star athlete".[1]

Professional career[edit]

Playing for Otto Graham's, Vince Lombardi's and George Allen's Redskins, Smith had a stellar career. He played in the 1973 Super Bowl VII, and Sports Illustrated called him "an outstanding receiver among tight ends, with the ability to break open for a long gain". In his career Smith caught 421 passes, including 60 touchdowns, a record for tight ends at the time. He was named All-Pro twice and held several NFL records that stood for years.

Death[edit]

Smith died of AIDS on October 15, 1986. He was the first former professional athlete to die of the disease.[1] Although he acknowledged that he had AIDS, he never publicly acknowledged he was gay.[1] Head coach Vince Lombardi, who had a gay brother, demanded a homophobia-free locker room but "not even the legendary Lombardi could insulate him from the crippling societal homophobia of the era".[1] Smith's sexuality was confirmed after his death by former teammate, pro NFL football player David Kopay, who had come out of the closet years earlier.[1] The Redskins logo, along with Jerry Smith's uniform number 87, was part of the AIDS quilt.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f NFL Documentary Profiles Closeted Gay Player

Sources[edit]