Dayton Fliers: Smith joins 600 club

It was a 5-yard catch in the last drive of a disappointing loss at St. Louis a week ago, not one of the more memorable catches of Cam Newton's career.  

Still, it was one of the more significant because it was No. 600 of his career. Six hundred of anything is a lot. Try to sign your name 600 times.

For Carolina, there is only one other player to reach that milestone as a Panther -- Muhsin Muhammad, with 696 receptions. 

Put in the context of NFL history, the significance of the number becomes even clearer. Smith's 600 receptions rank him 52nd in league history. That's among everybody who has ever played in the NFL. A few in that group, such as Marshall Faulk and Keith Byars, were not receivers, and a couple (Tony Gonzalez and Ozzie Newsome) were tight ends.

That makes Smith one of less than 50 wide receivers who have ever played the game to reach 600 catches, a remarkable accomplishment by any standard.

His route may also be one of the more unusual, coming into the league in 2001 as a kick returner who caught just 10 passes as a rookie. The next year he jumped to 54, and by his third year he was a 1,000-yard receiver with 88 catches. Aside from a 2004 season when injury ended his season in the first game, Smith has since remained one of the league's most productive receivers.

Smith's 600 catches have resulted in 8,639 yards, a figure that is sandwiched between a couple of players named Paul Warfield and Cliff Branch -- echoes from a different era whose legacies have endured over the decades.

Ironically, No. 50 on the yards receiving list is Ricky Proehl, a former Panther who helped Smith early in his career. The pupil needs less than 250 yards to catch the teacher and will then be among the top 50 in NFL history in catches and yards receiving.

Now Smith has taken the torch and is helping Carolina's young receivers. Devin Funchess, for example, credits Smith for his development from a sixth- round draft choice to one of the most productive first-year receivers in the NFL.

Gettis, like Smith, came into the NFL under the radar. It's something that Smith has never forgotten and has used as motivation throughout the years, starting with his first reception from Chris Weinke at Minnesota in his pro debut.

In between Weinke and last week's fourth-quarter reception at St. Louis from Matt Moore, Smith caught passes from Rodney Peete, Randy Fasani, Jake Delhomme, David Carr, Brett Basanez, Vinny Testaverde, and Jimmy Clausen.

Most of the 600 receptions came from Delhomme, much like the catch emblazoned into the hearts of Panthers faithful. That 69-yard touchdown for the sudden-death win in the second overtime of a 2003 playoff game also came on the turf of the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Ironically, that catch – the one most memorable – does not count among the 600 because it came in the postseason.

However, the catch -- like Smith himself -- will not be forgotten.

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