Jerry Smith (American football)
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|Date of birth:||July 19, 1943|
|Place of birth:||Eugene, Oregon|
|Date of death:||October 15, 1986(aged 43)|
|Place of death:||Silver Spring, Maryland|
|High school:||San Lorenzo (CA)|
|NFL Draft:||1965 / Round: 9 / Pick: 118|
|AFL draft:||1965 / Round: 18 / Pick: 141|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
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. 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".
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. In 1971, as a part of a USO tour in association with the National Football League, Smith, along with other stars John Brown, Butch Byrd, Fred Hoaglin, George Kunz, and Tom Woodeshick, visited and signed autographs for wounded military personnel in Vietnam.
Smith died of AIDS on October 15, 1986. He was the first former professional athlete to die of the disease. Although he acknowledged that he had AIDS, he never publicly acknowledged he was gay. 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". 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. The Redskins logo, along with Jerry Smith's uniform number 87, was part of the AIDS quilt.
- "Brief history of gay athletes". ESPN. December 18, 1998.
- Provenzano, Jim. "Who was the first gay football player to play in the Super Bowl?". Baltimore OUTloud. Archived from the original on January 11, 2008.
- Solomon, George (August 26, 1986). "Ex-Redskin Jerry Smith Says He's Battling AIDS;'Maybe It Will Help People Understand". Washington Post.