CHARLOTTE – The fourth and final episode of “The Hall” opens like they all have, this time with Panthers owner David Tepper FaceTiming Steve Smith, Sr. to share news that will leave them both choked up.
“We’re going to expand the Hall of Honor,” Tepper tells Smith, “and you’re going to be there baby.”
Then Smith, after a brief pause, responds in a way that warms the heart.
“Who, me?” he says before grinning from ear to ear.
Yes, you. Carolina’s all-time leading receiver, arguably the best player in team history – yes, of course, Smith is going into the Hall of Honor.
The episode shows us the many sides of Smith. It begins with the Smith delivering a powerful message as the keynote speaker for Mental Health America of Central Carolinas.
We then take a car ride with Smith and he explains why the enshrinement in the Hall of Honor is so special to him.
“This is a legacy for me,” Smith says, “a legacy for my family.”
Then we hear several unique perspectives on what made this fiery third-round pick from Utah so special.
General manager Marty Hurney: "Some big guys play small, some small guys play big. For a 5-10 receiver, he played so big. He was so physical. He could jump so high. And he had such a wide catch radius. He was a 6-5 receiver in a 5-10 receiver’s body… You will not find a human being more competitive than Steve Smith."
Former quarterback Jake Delhomme: "He was probably the most gifted athlete with the ball in his hands that I’ve ever seen in my life."
Head coach Ron Rivera: "If a player can beat you by himself, singlehandedly, Steve Smith pretty much did it."
Favorite little moment from the episode: Jordan Gross is a go-to guy for stories about Smitty. They played together collegiately at Utah before teaming up as pros in Carolina. Fitting that both are going into the Hall of Honor as part of the same class.
Anyway, Gross tells a story about Smith returning a punt against New Mexico, a team led by future Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher.
“Steve ran back a punt literally with one shoe on for a touchdown,” Gross said, “and he juked Urlacher for the score.”
Combine that with Smith’s remarkable 218-yard, 2-touchdown performance to dismantle Chicago in the 2005 postseason, and those are some awfully unpleasant memories for one of the all-time great defenders.
View photos of former wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. during his Hall of Honor photo shoot.