The Pro Bowl teams will be unveiled tonight on NFL Network, and it would be nice to be able to say Brad Smith is on there somewhere. But most fans, opposing players and opposing coaches might not know what position to vote him in for.
Is No. 16 a QB? A wideout? A running back? A blocking tight end, even? A kick cover man? A kick returner?
Smith doesn’t care. His mantra has always been that he just wants to help the Jets win, whatever position he’s put in. And he did that Sunday at Indianapolis with his 106-yard kickoff-return TD to greet the Colts fans just getting back from the Lucas Oil concessions and settling in their seats. Even though the return gave the Jets only a temporary 10-9 lead, it juiced all his teammates up for the post-Peyton push ahead as they scored the game’s final 19 points for the 29-15 win.
"It lifted us," head coach Rex Ryan said. "We knew we were in a dogfight, no doubt about that."
"It was uplifting," said kicker Jay Feely. "It gave us renewed vigor."
"He didn’t start the year back there," Wallace Wright said of Smith’s spot awaiting kickoffs on the goal line. "But he’s going to finish it there. He made a hell of a play."
At his locker after the game, Smith took all the plaudits in with his friendly smile. And he seemed stunned to learn that his 106-yard return was the longest play of any kind in franchise history.
"That’s awesome. That’s awesome," he said. "All the great players who’ve played for us, especially Leon [Washington] and Justin Miller and those guys, that’s a testament to Coach Westhoff and the staff and the guys he puts on the field."
All that is true, but here are two lists showing Smith belongs in their ranks. The first is the list of the six 100-yard plays in Jets/Titans history (the last three coming against the Colts). The second is the list of Jets who’ve returned kickoffs for touchdowns under Mike Westhoff’s tutelage since 2002:
|2009||Brad Smith||KOR||106||Jets 29, COLTS 15|
|1998||Aaron Glenn||Missed FG||104||COLTS 24, Jets 23|
|2006||Justin Miller||KOR||103||Colts 31, JETS 28|
|1997||Leon Johnson||KOR||101||JETS 31, Buccaneers 0|
|1960||Leon Burton||KOR||101||Raiders 28, TITANS 27|
|1996||Aaron Glenn||IR||100||DOLPHINS 36, Jets 27|
|2002||Chad Morton||2||2005-06||Justin Miller||3|
|2003||Jonathan Carter||1||2007-08||Leon Washington||4|
|2005||Jerricho Cotchery||1||2009||Brad Smith||1|
Smith is so genuinely thankful to everyone besides himself after he does something on the field that he could take a bow for. After the kickoff return Sunday, I asked him about the impact of his play on the game and he wanted to talk about his team.
"We needed to make a play. Everybody on the special teams unit wanted to be a part of something to help get the game going in our favor," he said. "To see the blocking on that play, it was textbook. I can’t tell you how easy they made it to make that play. So hats off to them. And I’m just so grateful to God for the opportunity to be able to contribute to this team."
That makes it easy for his teammates to give him props. Before Thomas Jones left the Lucas Oil podium Sunday evening, I asked him what the Smith play meant to him and his offensive teammates. He answered the question like a Brad Smith Seminole play, taking it one direction before faking people out of their underwear and turning the play upfield.
"Brad Smith is one of the best athletes in the league," Jones said. "He can run the ball, he can throw the ball, he can catch, he can tackle. He pretty much does it all.
"For him to return that kickoff, that just sparked us. Not only was it big for us but just the way it happened, just the way it looked. it looked like we were at practice. That’s just a tribute to them blocking. The special teams coaches work really hard at special teams practice. It looked just like it was drawn up. Brad does a really good job for us all the way around, not just on special teams but on offense. He’s definitely an asset to the team.”
Here’s the last chart on Brad for today showing the different hats he’s worn from game to game this season. Remember he missed Games 6-8 with an injury. (QB–Plays behind center when he handed off; STT–Special Teams Tackles):
All this points to another reason it’s good to have a B.Smith on your team. The opponents, such as Cincinnati on Sunday night, know he’s going to be used against them. They just don’t know how.
Tags: Brad Smith, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts, Jay Feely, Rex Ryan, Thomas Jones, Wallace Wright
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