One of the Best article ever written. I am even going to retype it all it is so good. Keep in mind, it was written back in February of 2001.
A friend of mine(cowboys fan) was nice enough to bring this to me or I would have never seen it. I ran across this article in my desk and thought I would share it with those that haven't read it.
Goodbye Mr. Smith
by Dave Kindred
The first time sportswriter Bob Fotuna saw Robert Smith, here's what Robert Smith was doing: running with a Football. A high school sophomore, 16yrs old. And not just running. Running the way OJ SImpson ran. High strides on ling skinny legs. Strong, smooth, fast. The first time Bob saw Smith run, here's what he said,"whooooaaaa." The sudden sound of serendipitous discovery.
12 years later, the phone rings in Bob Fortuna's home, at Euclid OH.
"Where's your dad?" It's Robert Smith talking to Jessica, the sportswriter's daughter.
"I don't know"
"Could I talk to you mother please?"
Donna Fortuna, says her husband is covering a gymnastics meet and she's not sure when he will be home.
"Have him call me, please? I need to talk to him."
About 9 pm that night, as Fortuna tells the story, "Donna says, 'You better call Rob it sounds serious.'"
For a long time,Smith was the NFL's best invisible running back. Only now have we noticed his transformation from sprinter to the full package. A free agent after eight seasons, he became the subject of a high dollar speculation: $40 million for 5 seasons, perhaps on a team less dysfunctional than the Vikings?
Fortuna calls him and Robert Smith says, " I am going to retire, and I want you to have the story."
Even for his friend(fortuna), Smith answered no questions. In fact, he retired by emai,l sort of. When his e-mail showed up garbled, Smith called back to Fortuna, who dictated his farewell to football and thanks to friends.
No fancy news conference. NO public displays of sentiment. NO contract negotiations by threat of retirement. Just a phone call to the man who'd written him up for the suburban weekley, Euclid Sun Journal and now covers scholastic sports for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Such a common sense behavior, alien to today's egomaniacal athlete, is in keeping with the character, personality, and intelligence of Robert Smith. Leave the trash talk talk to Randy Moss. Leave the Monkey talk to Deion Sanders. Leave God to Reggie(White). Robert Smith became an NFL star the old fashioned way: he earned it.
He ran for more yards than any Viking ever. He scored TDs on runs of 40 yds or more in six seasons. The Giant's Jason Seahorn called him "Eddie George with another gear." The trauma of life as an NFL running backwas such thatdoctors often explored his knees, and yet SMith's running with the football was an act of athleticism so beautiful it moved at least one journalist to drop Smith's name into a sentence with Joe DiMaggio's.
The New York Observer columnist Michael M Thomas remembered Joe D runnning style, "effortless, powereful, above all smoth." Then Thomas added, "the way Smith of the Vikings runs reminds me of Joe D."
DiMaggio retired ar 36. Beleaguered by the hell and knee injuries, he no longer could make the hard work look easy. It would bo no surprise to learn that Robert Smith has retired at age 28 because he acknowledged two truths athletes often ignore: 1) the hard work was no longer easy and 2) if you play now, you pay later.
"When Smith hurt his lknee this last time," says Paul Serra, once a Euclid High baseball coach and Smith's legal guardian, "he told me, 'I want to be able to walk when I am 40.'"
After playing hurt the last month of the Vikings season, Smith underwent surgery for a 4th time on that knee. He had left Ohio State eight years earlier with no long range NFL plans, and Serra says, Robert always said, ' I am only on injury away from not doing anything.'"
So Smith has walked away while he still can walk.
Nor is it the first time he walked.
He enrolled at Ohio St with plans to go to medical school, perhaps to study orthopedics. His curiosity encompassed genentic research, molecular biology and astronomy (friends call him "Copernicus"). As admireable as all that is in a student-athlete, there's evidence one coach thought, "And how does that beat Michigan?"
Smith said offensive coach Uzelac demanded he miss two classes to attend practice. Rather than bend to what he considered an unreasoable order, Smith sat out his sophomore season. Coincidentally or not, the coach was fired the next winter. Smith then suited up and told the Plain Dealer.
"If I go out this fall and rush for 2000 yds, if we win the championship and I win the Heisman Trophy, If I go on to become a doctor and find a cure for cancer, then become president of the US, there will still be people that will call me 'that prima donna that got Coach Uzelac fired.'"
There is that. Even now Smith often stands accused of arrogance. Dan Barreiro of the Star Tribune once quoted SMith on the religious zealotry in the NFL. First Smith said of the evangelizing Reggie White, "I find many of Reggie's comments increadibly ignorant. His statements on gays are embarrassing and speak to how little he knows.."
As for Cris Carter and Deion Sanders saying religion saved their lives, fine, "but wearing it on your sleeve to where it dominates the whole part of you, to where some guys seem to say they're better than you because of their religious faith, that bothers me."
Smith has created The Robert Smith Foundation supporting children's hospitals and funding cancer research. He might yet become a researcher himself. Bright and articulate, he also might do television football commentary.
The wonder is not that such a man quit football so young.
The wonder is that he played at all.
So, take it for what it is worth. In this day and age of TO and Joe Horn, this article is refreshing. Also, Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice come to mind when I read this, playing too long.
It also says there are more to our favorite players than just Sport Stars.