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Redskins By The (Jersey) Numbers: #87 Jerry Smith

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One of the greatest players at his position of the decade also faced and overcame discrimination

The Advocate

Charlie Brown and Rod Gardner both had some great years with the Redskins but I would be remiss if I did not focus on Jerry Smith in this edition of Redskins By The (Jersey) Numbers.

When talking about the best tight ends during the 1960’s and 1970’s Smith should be mentioned at every turn. In the 60’s he was putting up Pro Bowl caliber numbers that would translate in today’s pass-heavy offenses. Smith arguably set the stage for how tight ends are involved in the pass offense in today’s NFL. Smith had several spectacular seasons for the Redskins but his best was in 1967’s where he racked up 67 catches for 849 yards and 12 touchdowns. Smith was selected to the Pro Bowl twice (1967 and 1969) in his career and also was selected a first-team All-Pro in 1969. For many years, including recently there have been attempts to get Jerry Smith into the Hall of Fame. The most compelling of which is this article from Fox Sports a few years ago. Smith spent all of his 13 years in the NFL with the Redskins and ended his career in 1977 with 421 receptions for 5,496 yards and 60 touchdowns. He also played in Super Bowl VII which the Redskins lost 14 - 7 to the Dolphins.

While Smith was one of the best tight ends of the era he also faced discrimination. He was gay. Back then and arguably up until the present being a gay player usually meant being chastised in the locker room and one simply didn't talk about it much less appeal for acceptance to his teammates or society. He never publicly talked about being gay or admitted it to teammates but it was suspected by his coaches and teammates. Smith played in fear that his sexuality would cost him his career if he were outed. Former coach Vince Lombardi tried to make the environment more welcoming for Smith as he had a gay brother and Jerry loved playing for him. Smith died in 1984 from AIDS and was the first known former player to die of the disease. Jerry Smith still holds the Redskins team record for most receiving touchdowns in a season with 12.

Jerry Smith A Football Life

Poll

Who is the greatest Redskins to ever wear #87?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    Jerry Smith
    (170 votes)
  • 2%
    Rod Gardner
    (7 votes)
  • 15%
    Charlie Brown
    (38 votes)
  • 7%
    James Thrash
    (17 votes)
  • 0%
    Fred Dugan
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    Terry Orr
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Todd Yoder
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Roydell Williams
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (please say in comments)
    (1 vote)
238 votes total Vote Now