National Football League
The National Football League is a professional American football league consisting of 32 teams, divided between the National Football Conference and the American Football Conference. The NFL is one of the four major professional sports leagues in North America, the highest professional level of American football in the world; the NFL's 17-week regular season runs from early September to late December, with each team playing 16 games and having one bye week. Following the conclusion of the regular season, six teams from each conference advance to the playoffs, a single-elimination tournament culminating in the Super Bowl, held in the first Sunday in February, is played between the champions of the NFC and AFC; the NFL was formed in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association before renaming itself the National Football League for the 1922 season. The NFL agreed to merge with the American Football League in 1966, the first Super Bowl was held at the end of that season. Today, the NFL has the highest average attendance of any professional sports league in the world and is the most popular sports league in the United States.
The Super Bowl is among the biggest club sporting events in the world and individual Super Bowl games account for many of the most watched television programs in American history, all occupying the Nielsen's Top 5 tally of the all-time most watched U. S. television broadcasts by 2015. The NFL's executive officer is the commissioner; the players in the league belong to the National Football League Players Association. The team with the most NFL championships is the Green Bay Packers with thirteen; the current NFL champions are the New England Patriots, who defeated the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII for their sixth Super Bowl championship. On August 20, 1920, a meeting was held by representatives of the Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians, Dayton Triangles at the Jordan and Hupmobile auto showroom in Canton, Ohio; this meeting resulted in the formation of the American Professional Football Conference, a group who, according to the Canton Evening Repository, intended to "raise the standard of professional football in every way possible, to eliminate bidding for players between rival clubs and to secure cooperation in the formation of schedules".
Another meeting was held on September 17, 1920 with representatives from teams from four states-Akron, Canton and Dayton from Ohio. The league was renamed to the American Professional Football Association; the league elected Jim Thorpe as its first president, consisted of 14 teams. The Massillon Tigers from Massillon, Ohio was at the September 17 meeting, but did not field a team in 1920. Only two of these teams, the Decatur Staleys and the Chicago Cardinals, remain. Although the league did not maintain official standings for its 1920 inaugural season and teams played schedules that included non-league opponents, the APFA awarded the Akron Pros the championship by virtue of their 8–0–3 record; the first event occurred on September 26, 1920 when the Rock Island Independents defeated the non-league St. Paul Ideals 48–0 at Douglas Park. On October 3, 1920, the first full week of league play occurred; the following season resulted in the Chicago Staleys controversially winning the title over the Buffalo All-Americans.
On June 24, 1922, the APFA changed its name to the National Football League. In 1932, the season ended with the Chicago Bears and the Portsmouth Spartans tied for first in the league standings. At the time, teams were ranked on a single table and the team with the highest winning percentage at the end of the season was declared the champion; this method had been used since the league's creation in 1920, but no situation had been encountered where two teams were tied for first. The league determined that a playoff game between Chicago and Portsmouth was needed to decide the league's champion; the teams were scheduled to play the playoff game a regular season game that would count towards the regular season standings, at Wrigley Field in Chicago, but a combination of heavy snow and extreme cold forced the game to be moved indoors to Chicago Stadium, which did not have a regulation-size football field. Playing with altered rules to accommodate the smaller playing field, the Bears won the game 9–0 and thus won the championship.
Fan interest in the de facto championship game led the NFL, beginning in 1933, to split into two divisions with a championship game to be played between the division champions. The 1934 season marked the first of 12 seasons in which African Americans were absent from the league; the de facto ban was rescinded in 1946, following public pressure and coinciding with the removal of a similar ban in Major League Baseball. The NFL was always the foremost pro
Tackle (gridiron football position)
Tackle is a playing position in American and Canadian football. In the one-platoon system prevalent in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a tackle played on both offense and defense. In the modern system of specialized units, offensive tackle and defensive tackle are separate positions, the stand-alone term "tackle" refers to the offensive tackle position only; the offensive tackle is a position on the offensive line and right. Like other offensive linemen, their job is to block: to physically keep defenders away from the offensive player who has the football and enable him to advance the football and score a touchdown; the term "tackle" is a vestige of an earlier era of football in which the same players played both offense and defense. A tackle is the strong position on the offensive line, they power their blocks with quick steps and maneuverability. The tackles are in charge of the outside protection. If the tight end goes out for a pass, the tackle must cover everyone that his guard does not, plus whoever the tight end is not covering.
They defend against defensive ends. In the NFL, offensive tackles measure over 6 ft 4 in and 300 lb. According to Sports Illustrated football journalist Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman, offensive tackles achieve the highest scores, relative to the other positional groups, on the Wonderlic Test, with an average of 26; the Wonderlic is taken before the draft to assess each player's aptitude for learning and problem solving. The right tackle is the team's best run blocker. Most running plays are towards the strong side of the offensive line; the right tackle will face the defending team's best run stoppers. He must be able to gain traction in his blocks so that the running back can find a hole to run through; the left tackle is the team's best pass blocker. Of the two tackles, the left tackles will have better footwork and agility than the right tackle in order to counteract the pass rush of defensive ends; when a quarterback throws a forward pass, the quarterback's shoulders are aligned perpendicular to the line of scrimmage, with the non-dominant shoulder closer to downfield.
Right-handed quarterbacks, the majority of players in the position, thus turn their backs to defenders coming from the left side, creating a vulnerable "blind side" that the left tackle must protect. A 2006 book by Michael Lewis, The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, made into a 2009 motion picture, sheds much light on the workings of the left tackle position; the book and the film's introduction discuss how the annual salary of left tackles in the NFL skyrocketed in the mid-1990s. Premier left tackles are now sought after, are the second highest paid players on a roster after the quarterback. Recent examples include Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel, Lane Johnson, Matt Kalil, Trent Williams, Jake Long, Joe Thomas
2003 NFL Draft
The 2003 NFL draft was the procedure by which National Football League teams selected amateur college football players. The draft is known as the "NFL Annual Player Selection Meeting" and has been conducted annually since 1936; the draft was held April 26–27, 2003 at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. The league held a supplemental draft after the regular draft and before the regular season; the draft was broadcast on ESPN and ESPN2 beginning at noon on Saturday, April 26 and beginning at 11:00 am on Sunday, April 27. The draft consisted of seven rounds, with teams selecting in the reverse order of the finish the previous season. There were 32 compensatory picks distributed among 15 teams, with five teams each receiving four additional selections. In addition, the Houston Texans, who started play as an expansion franchise the previous season, were granted a supplemental selection in the middle of each of the draft's final five rounds, plus the final selection in the final two rounds.
There was little drama when the draft began with the Cincinnati Bengals selecting Carson Palmer, as Palmer had agreed to contract terms with the Bengals the previous day. He became the first Heisman Trophy winner selected first overall in the draft since Vinny Testaverde in 1987; the event ended nearly 30 hours with Ryan Hoag being chosen by the Oakland Raiders with the final pick and thus gaining the distinction of "Mr. Irrelevant"; the draft took an odd turn with the Minnesota Vikings' pick in the first round. The Vikings were attempting to consummate a trade when their fifteen-minute time allowance elapsed; the Jaguars who selected next were quick to pounce, turning in their card to select QB Byron Leftwich after the Vikings' time elapsed. The Panthers took advantage of the gaffe, selecting OT Jordan Gross before the Vikings recovered and selected DT Kevin Williams; the mistake may have worked in the Vikings' favor as Williams went on to be a mainstay in their team, missing only four games in his first 10 seasons in the NFL and making six Pro Bowls.
The colleges with the most players selected in the draft were Florida and Tennessee which each had eight players chosen. Meanwhile, Penn State and Miami each had four players selected in the first round. Eleven defensive linemen were selected in round one, eclipsing the previous record of nine, set in 2001. Ten underclassmen were taken in the first round, including three of the first four overall selections; the first round lasted nearly five hours. The Buffalo Bills selection of Miami's Willis McGahee as the first running back off the board was notable because he was recovering from a career-threatening injury he suffered in the Fiesta Bowl which it was believed could have caused him to miss the upcoming season; the 262 players chosen in the draft were in the following positions: In the explanations below, denotes trades that took place during the draft, while indicates trades completed pre-draft. Round one Round two Round three Round four Round five Round six Round seven Notes For each player selected in the Supplemental Draft, the team forfeited its pick in that round in the draft of the following season.
General references"2003 NFL Draft". NFL. Archived from the original on November 17, 2006. Retrieved November 26, 2006. "ESPN.com: NFL Draft 2003". ESPN. Archived from the original on May 24, 2011. Retrieved April 14, 2011. "FFToday.com Draft Tracker". FFToday.com. Retrieved April 14, 2011. "2003 NFL Draft Pick Transactions". ProSportsTransactions.com. Archived from the original on May 21, 2011. Retrieved April 14, 2011. "2003 NFL Draft: Six Years Later". FootballOutsiders.com. Retrieved June 6, 2011. Trade references Specific references
Alexander Douglas Smith is an American football quarterback for the Washington Redskins of the National Football League. He played college football for the Utah Utes, where he was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year in 2004 and led Utah to a victory at the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, finishing in the national top-five. Following his college career, Smith was selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. During his first six seasons for them, he played for a different offensive coordinator each year, struggled with injuries. Under head coach Jim Harbaugh in 2011 however, Smith enjoyed his strongest statistical season, leading the 49ers to their first NFC West division title and first playoff victory since 2002 — along with their first NFC Championship Game appearance since 1997; the following season, Smith sustained a concussion in the middle of the season and was replaced by Colin Kaepernick. Despite posting strong statistical numbers during the season before the injury, Smith did not regain his starting position after he was medically cleared to play.
Following the 2012 season, Smith was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. In his first season with the team, he led them to a 9–0 start and their first playoff berth in three years. Smith went on to guide the Chiefs to an eleven-game winning streak in 2015 and their first playoff win since 1994. During his time with the Chiefs, only Tom Brady and Russell Wilson had won more games as a starting quarterback, he has been named to three Pro Bowls with the Chiefs, led the league in passer rating in 2017. Following the 2017 season, Smith was traded to the Redskins and subsequently signed a four-year contract with them. Smith suffered a fractured leg in a game that season, reported to be career threatening. Born in Bremerton, Smith grew up in La Mesa, California, his father, Douglas D. Smith, was an executive director at Helix High School; as a starter for the Helix Scotties during his junior and senior years, Smith led his team to a record of 25–1, including two San Diego CIF section championships. He was named to all-county squads in the San Diego CIF system.
Smith earned the conference offensive player of the year twice, twice won the team MVP for Helix. During his time at Helix, Smith set a school record by throwing for six touchdowns in one game, recorded the second-highest completion percentage in San Diego CIF history. While at Helix, he played with 2005 Heisman Trophy-winner Reggie Bush. Smith and Bush were finalists for the 2004 Heisman, making it the first time a high school had two finalists at the same ceremony. Smith was president of his senior class in high school, earned college credits through a program with San Diego State University and having taken a dozen Advanced Placement tests. Smith attended the University of Utah and played for the Utah Utes, wearing number 11, he finished fourth in voting for the 2004 Heisman Trophy and was selected as the 2004 Mountain West Conference Player of the Year. Smith posted a 21–1 record as a starter in college, while leading a high-powered spread offense under head coach Urban Meyer, he led the Utes to victories in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl.
Smith earned a bachelor's degree in economics in two years with a 3.74 GPA, having matriculated with 64 credit hours earned before attending college, began work on a master's degree before being drafted. At the NFL combine, Smith recorded a 4.7 time in the 40-yard dash, had a 32-inch vertical leap. He earned a score of 40 out of 50 on the Wonderlic exam; the San Francisco 49ers, who held the first overall pick, had hired a head coach with a strong personality in Mike Nolan. Nolan thought Smith to be cerebral and non-confrontational. Nolan evaluated Aaron Rodgers but did not believe that Rodgers's attitude could co-exist with him. Smith was the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, selected by the San Francisco 49ers. In July 2005, Smith agreed to a six-year, $49.5 million contract with the 49ers. Dealing with an injury and being taken in and out of the lineup by then-head coach Mike Nolan, Smith played in nine games in his rookie season, recording just one touchdown pass, against the Houston Texans, while throwing 11 interceptions.
After the challenges faced by his rookie campaign, Smith went into the 2006 season with a new offensive coordinator and an improved set of offensive weapons around him. The 49ers used their top draft choice on tight end Vernon Davis, they upgraded their offensive backfield, trading underachieving running back Kevan Barlow to the Jets, making Frank Gore the feature back. Smith spent the off-season working daily with his new coordinator, wide receivers and tight end, while working to improve his technique and add bulk; the improved offensive cast helped Smith develop in his second year early. Smith's first three games of the season saw him throw three touchdowns, no interceptions, amass 814 yards. After struggling in Kansas City, he threw for three touchdowns against the Oakland Raiders, setting a career-high. However, the next five games saw Smith resume his growing pains, averaging only 153 yards per game while throwing only six touchdowns and nine interceptions. Despite his difficulty, he led the 49ers on a three-game winning streak in November.
Smith met Joe Montana for the first time on November 2006, during a game against the Vikings. The 49ers wore the throwback jerseys of the 1989 team which teammates wore; the 49ers went on to win 9–3, upsetting the Minnesota Vikings. In need of a statement game, the 49ers traveled to Seattle for a Thursday
The Atlanta Falcons are a professional American football team based in Atlanta, Georgia. The Falcons compete in the National Football League as a member club of the league's National Football Conference South division; the Falcons joined the NFL in 1965 as an expansion team, after the NFL offered then-owner Rankin Smith a franchise to keep him from joining the rival American Football League. In their 53 years of existence, the Falcons have compiled a record of 368–466–6, winning division championships in 1980, 1998, 2004, 2010, 2012, 2016; the Falcons have appeared in two Super Bowls, the first during the 1998 season in Super Bowl XXXIII, where they lost to the Denver Broncos 34–19, the second was eighteen years a 34–28 overtime defeat by the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. The Falcons' current home field is Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Professional football first came to Atlanta in 1962, when the American Football League staged two preseason contests, with one featuring the Denver Broncos vs. the Houston Oilers and the second pitting the Dallas Texans against the Oakland Raiders.
Two years the AFL held another exhibition, this time with the New York Jets taking on the San Diego Chargers. In 1965, after the Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium was built, the city of Atlanta felt the time was right to start pursuing professional football. One independent group, active in NFL exhibition promotions in Atlanta applied for franchises in both the AFL and NFL, acting on its own with no guarantee of stadium rights. Another group reported it had deposited earnest money for a team in the AFL. With everyone running in different directions, some local businessmen worked out a deal and were awarded an AFL franchise on June 8, contingent upon acquiring exclusive stadium rights from city officials. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, moving in Atlanta matters, was spurred by the AFL interest and headed on the next plane down to Atlanta to block the rival league's claim on the city of Atlanta, he forced the city to make a choice between the two leagues. The AFL's original expansion plans in June 1965 were for two new teams in 1966, in Atlanta and Philadelphia.
It evolved into the Miami Dolphins in 1966 and the Cincinnati Bengals in 1968. The NFL had planned to add two teams in 1967; the odd number of teams resulted in one idle team each week, with each team playing fourteen games over fifteen weeks. The second expansion team, the New Orleans Saints, joined the NFL as planned in 1967 as its sixteenth franchise; the Atlanta Falcons franchise began on June 30, 1965, when Rozelle granted ownership to forty-year-old Rankin Smith Sr. an Executive Vice President of Life Insurance Company of Georgia. He paid the highest price in NFL history at the time for a franchise. Rozelle and Smith made the deal in about five minutes and the Atlanta Falcons brought the largest and most popular sport to the city of Atlanta; the Atlanta expansion team became the fifteenth NFL franchise, they were awarded the first overall pick in the 1966 NFL Draft as well as the final pick in each of the first five rounds. They selected consensus All-American linebacker Tommy Nobis from the University of Texas, making him the first-ever Falcon.
The league held the expansion draft six weeks in which Atlanta selected unprotected players from the fourteen existing franchises. Although the Falcons selected many good players in those drafts, they still were not able to win right away; the Atlanta team received its nickname on August 29, 1965. Miss Julia Elliott, a school teacher from Griffin, was singled out from many people who suggested "Falcons" as the nickname for the new franchise, she wrote: "the Falcon is dignified, with great courage and fight. It never drops its prey, it is deadly and has a great sporting tradition." The Falcons' inaugural season was in 1966, their first preseason game was on August 1, a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Under head coach Norb Hecker, Atlanta lost their first nine regular season games in 1966. Two weeks Atlanta won at Minnesota, beat St. Louis in Atlanta the next week for their first home win; the team finished the 1960s with twelve wins in four seasons. The Falcons had their first Monday Night Football game in Atlanta during the 1970 season, a 20–7 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
The only two winning seasons in their first twelve years were 1971 and 1973. In the 1978 season, the Falcons qualified for the playoffs for the first time and won the Wild Card game against the Eagles 14–13; the following week, they lost to the Dallas Cowboys 27–20 in the Divisional Playoffs. In the 1980 season, after a nine-game winning streak, the Falcons posted a franchise then-best record of 12–4 and captured their first NFC West division title; the next week, their dream season ended at home with a loss to the Cowboys 30–27 in the divisional playoffs. In the strike-shortened 1982 season, the Falcons made the playoffs but lost to the Minnesota Vikings, 30–24. Falcons coach Leeman Bennett was fired after the loss; the team had losing seasons for the next eight years. In the 1989 NFL Draft, the Falcons selected cornerback Deion Sanders in the first round
Las Vegas Bowl
The Las Vegas Bowl is an NCAA-sanctioned Division I FBS post-season college football bowl game. It has been played annually at the 40,000-seat Sam Boyd Stadium in Whitney, every December since 1992; the bowl is owned by ESPN Events. As the Las Vegas Bowl was the replacement for the California Bowl, it inherited that bowl's tie-ins with the champions of the Big West Conference and the Mid-American Conference; these remained intact until 1996, after which the Big West's champion earned a berth in the Humanitarian Bowl while the MAC's champion was given a berth in the Motor City Bowl. 1997 through 1999 saw a team from the Western Athletic Conference face an at-large team, the Mountain West Conference took over for the WAC for the 1999 and 2000 games. Since 2001, the Mountain West and Pac-12 Conferences have matched up in Las Vegas. From 2001 until 2005, the second place team in the Mountain West was chosen to face the Pac-12. Beginning in 2006, after its contract with the Liberty Bowl expired, the Mountain West agreed to send its champion to the Las Vegas Bowl to face the Pac-12's 5th or 6th place team.
From 2006 until 2013, the Mountain West would send a secondary team if the champion qualified for the Bowl Championship Series or, as per the rules of the Hawai'i Bowl, was Hawai'i. The 2016 game would have pitted the Pac-12's #6 team against the winner of the Mountain West Conference Football Championship Game, provided that the winner of the game does not automatically qualify for one of the College Football Playoff's six bowls as the highest-ranking member of the "Group of Five". However, since the Pac-12 only had six bowl eligible teams and two of them qualified for New Years Six bowls, the bowl elected to invite Houston Cougars of the American Athletic Conference instead of a Pac-12 team. Starting in 2020, the bowl game will be held at Las Vegas Stadium and will feature a team from the Pac-12 against a team from the Big Ten Conference or Southeastern Conference; the game originated from the California Raisin Bowl, played in Fresno from 1981 to 1991. In 1992, the game relocated to Las Vegas and was renamed the Las Vegas Bowl.
The NCAA adopted an overtime rule for all games thereafter. In 1995, Toledo defeated Nevada, 40–37, in the first overtime game in Division I-A college football; the following season, the policy of overtime was adopted for regular season games to break ties. In 2001, ESPN Regional Television purchased the Las Vegas Bowl from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. On December 25, 2002, UCLA interim coach Ed Kezirian was victorious in his only game as the UCLA head coach as UCLA won 27–13 over the New Mexico. In that game, New Mexico sent Katie Hnida in to kick an extra point, the first time a woman played in a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision college football game; the kick was blocked. The 2007 Las Vegas Bowl featured a rematch between Mountain West Champion BYU and UCLA who defeated BYU during the regular season. UCLA scored first on a field goal after a fumble by BYU quarterback Max Hall. BYU answered with a touchdown reception by Austin Collie. BYU went up 17–6 with Michael Reed catch for a touchdown.
A fumble by BYU with 19 seconds left in the first half allowed UCLA to score and cut the lead to 17-13. UCLA cut the deficit to 17-16 on a 50-yard field goal. With two minutes left, they were able to drive down to the BYU 13-yard line with 3 seconds left. The 28-yard field goal attempt was blocked by BYU defensive tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna and fell short giving BYU their second Vegas Bowl victory in three tries making the Cougars the first school to win back-to-back Las Vegas Bowls; the following year, the Arizona Wildcats denied BYU their third consecutive Las Vegas Bowl win by winning 31–21. On September 25, 2013, Royal Purple was announced as the new title sponsor for the next three years. Following the expiration of Royal Purple's sponsorship of the title from 2013 to 2015, the game is known as the Las Vegas Bowl. With the relocation of the Oakland Raiders approved by the National Football League the tentatively named Las Vegas Stadium will be constructed to replace Sam Boyd Stadium, it is expected that the Las Vegas Bowl along with the other events held at Sam Boyd Stadium will move to the new stadium upon completion.
The bowl was known as the SEGA Sports Las Vegas Bowl from 2001 to 2002. From 2003 to 2008, the title sponsor was the Pioneer Corporation. From 2009 to 2012, the game was known as the Maaco Bowl Las Vegas, as the sponsor was MAACO. From 2013 to 2015, the game was known as the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl as the sponsor was Royal Purple. For the 2016 edition, the game was known as the Las Vegas Bowl presented by GEICO as GEICO was the presenting sponsor. On July 12, 2018, it was announced that Mitsubishi would be the new title sponsor, with the game renamed as the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl. Rankings per AP Poll prior to the game being played. Source: Updated through the December 2018 edition. Teams with multiple appearancesTeams with a single appearanceWon: Arizona, Bowling Green, North Carolina, Utah State, Wyoming Lost: Air Force, Central Michigan, Colorado State, Washington Updated through the December 2018 edition. Pac-12 record includes appearances when the conference was known as the Pac-10 (before 2011
Steve Smith Sr.
Stevonne Latrall Smith Sr. is a former American football wide receiver who played 16 seasons in the National Football League with the Carolina Panthers. He played college football at Utah, was drafted by the Panthers in the third round of the 2001 NFL Draft, he played for the Baltimore Ravens during the final three years of his career. Smith, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro, emerged as one of the NFL's most productive wide receivers of the 21st century, leading the league in catches, receiving yards, touchdowns in 2005, he played for the Panthers for 13 seasons before signing with the Ravens in March 2014, is the Panthers' all-time leader in total touchdowns and receiving yards. In 2011, he became the 35th player in NFL history to amass 10,000 receiving yards. In 2016, Smith became the 14th player in NFL history to amass 1,000 career receptions. At the time of his retirement, he ranked seventh in NFL career all-purpose yards; as of November 2018, he is eighth in NFL career receiving yards, 12th in career receptions, 25th in receiving touchdowns.
Smith attended University High School in Los Angeles, was a letterman in football and track & field. In football, he played running back and defensive back, was an All-Metro League selection as well as an All-California Interscholastic Federation selection. Smith graduated from University High School in 1997. In track & field, he set a handful of school records, was named as an All-City selection as a high-hurdler, excelled in the triple jump and 300m hurdles, he had personal-bests of 38.73 seconds in the 300m hurdles. After graduating from high school, Smith attended Santa Monica College. While playing for the Santa Monica Corsairs football team, Smith defined himself as a talented football player, earned a starting position. During this time, Smith was teammates with future NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson, surprising fans of the small college's team with their unexpected talents. While impressing spectators with his performance on the football field, Santa Monica's head coach, Robert Taylor, encouraged Smith to not play for riches or fame, but to play so that he might earn a scholarship to a Division-I school, where he could receive a better education.
He advised Smith and Johnson to not do touchdown celebrations and as Smith said, "they put the cuffs on us." Smith took Taylor's advice to heart, excelled in his academics, not missing a single day of classes while attending Santa Monica. After completing two years at Santa Monica College, Smith transferred to the University of Utah, where he established himself as a standout wideout for the Utah Utes football team in the Mountain West Conference where he was a teammate of future NFL running back Mike Anderson. While at the University of Utah, Smith set a record for yards per catch with a 20.6 average, was chosen to play for the conference's all-star team twice. However, he missed their bowl game in his final season due to injury. After the Blue–Gray All-Star game on December 25, 2000, Smith began to receive attention from various NFL scouts, he was named offensive MVP of the January 2001, East -- West Shrine Game. He and his wife have endowed an athletics scholarship at the University of Utah.
The Carolina Panthers chose Smith in the third round during the 2001 NFL Draft. Smith spent a majority of his rookie season as a kick and punt returner, leading all rookies in net yardage with 1,994 yards, landing in fourth place among all NFL players behind Priest Holmes, Marshall Faulk, Derrick Mason. In his first play as a professional, Smith returned the opening kickoff of the first game of the season for a touchdown. Smith had 10 catches for 154 yards, rushed 4 times for 43 yards. However, the team finished 1-15. During the 2002 NFL season, Smith earned a starting position as a wide receiver and continued as the team's kick returner and punt returner. In 2002, Smith was involved in an altercation in a training camp dormitory with fellow receiver Guilian Gary. On November 10, 2002, Smith was involved with an altercation with his teammate Anthony Bright during a film-room meeting. Smith was suspended after that incident. Smith was arrested and jailed on charges of misdemeanor assault, the Panthers suspended him for one game on November 21.
Smith finished the 2002 season with 54 receptions for 3 touchdowns. During the 2003 season, Smith played a critical role for the Panther offense and helped lead them to their first NFC title in franchise history, he finished the regular season with 88 receptions for 7 touchdowns. He eclipsed the 1,000 receiving yards mark for the first time in his career in 2003. During the NFC divisional playoffs, Smith caught a 69-yard pass and ran it for a touchdown in the 2nd overtime period to defeat the St. Louis Rams 29–23. In Super Bowl XXXVIII, he caught 4 passes for 80 yards and a touchdown, returned a kickoff for 30 yards in the Panthers' 32–29 loss to the New England Patriots. Smith suffered a severe break in his leg during the 2004 NFL season opener against the Green Bay Packers, was out for the remainder of the year. Before the injury, he managed to record 6 catches for 60 yards, attempted a pass which fell incomplete. In the 2005 NFL season, Smith recovered from his injury to have the best season of his career.
He earned the "Triple Crown" of receiving, leading the NFL in receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns and became only the third player, Jerry Rice and Sterling Sharpe, to accomplish this feat in the Sup