Think you know everything there is to know about Steve Smith Sr.?
Yes, he's a 15-year veteran with five Pro Bowls under his belt. He ranks 14th on the NFL's all-time receiving yards list. He can talk trash with the best of them, and backs down to nobody.
But there's a lot more beneath the surface. Here are five things you may not know about the Ravens wide receiver:
1) He was teammates with Chad Johnson at Santa Monica College (SMC), a two-year community college.Holy moly! Two future Pro Bowl receivers together at a community college? The Corsairs must have been lighting it up against their opponents, right? RIGHT? Uh, no. Turns out, the 1997 Santa Monica team finished the season with a 4-6 record. And neither Smith nor Johnson even led the team in receiving that season. That honor went to 27-year-old freshman Eugene Sykes, who never made it to the NFL.
Smith wasn't highly recruited coming out of high school because he was perceived as undersized (5-foot-9) with anger issues and poor grades. Meanwhile, Johnson was academically ineligible to play at a bigger school and had already been released from Division II Langston University in Oklahoma for reported fighting and skipping classes. That's when they both landed at Santa Monica College and became lifelong buds. "We're great friends," Smith said in 2010. "I love Chad to death." The duo must have had a blast together, but they were both outspoken characters and made life interesting for their coach. "They were a handful," said SMC Head Coach Robert Taylor, who stayed in touch with Smith until his passing in 2009. "My job was to make sure that I kept my foot on their necks everyday so that they would do everything right."
*2) He got married during the bye week of his senior year at Utah. *Who gets married during a quick break from football? Steve and Angie Smith, that's who. Smith first met his future bride-to-be through a mutual friend while attending college at the University of Utah (more on his transfer to Utah below). He asked for her phone number on the way to class one morning and she remembers thinking, "He seemed really genuine to me. He was kind of quiet. What he said was, `I want to get to know you and pick your brain.' That was different to me." His unique pickup line obviously worked as the two fell in love and planned to get married in February 2001. But they just couldn't wait and pushed the date up to the fall of Smith's senior year. Couples can spend months or years planning their weddings, but the Smiths accomplished it in record time. "We planned it all in a week," Angie said.
3) He worked at Taco Bell.
He still drives to the Taco Bell on the corner of Pico Boulevard and Bundy Drive when he visits his hometown of Los Angeles. That's where Smith was employed from his junior year in high school to his junior year of college. He'd ride the bus over to work the cash register, sweep the parking lot and scrub the floors. And he did it for $5.75 an hour. When he visits that old Taco Bell, he's not looking for a burrito supreme. He's there for motivation and to remember his roots. Smith was determined as a high schooler to stay off the streets and stay off drugs after being exposed to addicts when he went to work with his mother, a drug counselor. When Smith was recruited by Fred Graves from the University of Utah after finishing his SMC career in 1998, guess where they met for the first time? "I met Steve one day at the Taco Bell," said Graves. "I fell in love with him right there."
4) He was a track star in high school and was recruited as a defensive back in college.Smith will go down as one of the all-time great wide receivers, but he started out as a running back and defensive back in high school. He also set a handful of school records as a track and field star. SMC recruited Smith to play defensive back, but it quickly became clear it wasn't the right fit. "We watched him in an All-Star game and he got beat deep," Taylor said. "So we figured, 'Nope, that’s not going to work.' We made him a wide receiver and Steve has always had a knack of making big plays … and he didn't drop any balls."
5) He finished playing in a game despite breaking his neck.
You already know that Smith is tough, but did you know he was tough enough to finish a game despite breaking his neck? After transferring to Utah, Smith was on his way to a record-breaking season until he was nailed during a punt return against rival BYU in 1999. His neck bothered him after the play, feeling a weird sensation extend to his shoulders. He continued playing, and later that day he went to the hospital. Doctors informed him that X-rays revealed a broken vertebra. He wore a brace and halo for 10 weeks and was told his odds of ever playing football again were 50-50. As he has done time and time again, Smith beat the odds and still continues his prolific career today at age 36.
Bonus: A softie at heart, Smith is a big family man and wants to travel the world.Outsiders perceive Smith to be a brash, aggressive warrior who has gotten in fights with teammates and loves to talk trash. But those who know him, know he is also a softie at heart who would do anything for his family. He and Angie have four children, Peyton, Baylee, Boston and Steve Jr. (Smith changed the name on the back of his jersey to Smith Sr. when "Deuce" was born). Smith says that one of the tricks he's learned along the way is disengagement, meaning when leaves the team facility, he leaves work behind. He loves reading books. The Richest Man in Babylon, A Tale of Three Kings and The Last Lecture are among his favorites. And he loves traveling the world, collecting passport stamps from China, Italy, Australia and all over Africa. He's also been to Jerusalem, Barcelona, London and Paris. Last offseason, he went on an African safari and posted a selfie of himself with an elephant that went viral.
"There's a perception of me that I'm a hothead and an idiot," he told The MMQB last November. "That because I'm aggressive on the football field, I'm a thug. But look, just because you see me [doing one thing] in my workplace doesn't mean I walk around stiff-arming people and spinning cantaloupe in the grocery store."