Here are some of the thoughts from today's press conference regarding Rod Smith's retirement --
PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER PAT BOWLEN
"[This is] part of a historic date today. The retirement of Rod Smith, obviously the greatest wide receiver that has ever played for the Denver Broncos. I could sit here and look at all his stats and talk about his accomplishments. You all know those already. I'd rather talk about Rod and his impact on the Denver Broncos and Pat Bowlen. You know, Rod, in the locker room, became over a period of time by far the most influential person in this organization among the players. He took his time getting that position, but there was no question in that in his career every player in that locker room was listening to him and respecting his opinion and what he had to say. And Rod, for that, I appreciate it, and I hope someday, before they carry me out of here in a pine box, that I'll have another player like you that has that amount of influence and control in the locker room the way you were able to because to me it meant a lot more than what you were able to do on the field. In and of it is unprecedented. I hope there is a way we can keep you involved in this organization. That is something that I am a very strong proponent of. I want you to stick around Denver, and hopefully, Mike (Shanahan) and myself will be able find something for you to do because you are going to be very productive. That would be a big deal for us. Having said that, I will turn it over to Mike and let him have what he has to say. Again, summing it up, you are probably the greatest player-you are the greatest player next to John [Elway], to play for me. And if I ever get anybody like you or like John again, I am very fortunate."
HEAD COACH MIKE SHANAHAN
"Any time you are able to get a player like Rod Smith when you start out as a young coach, you really don’t know how lucky you are. Rod is the only person that I have ever been around on a consistent basis, day in, day out, that never cared about his stats. All Rod Smith talked about was winning. When you have a guy that talks about winning consistently, regardless of any number of catches or any honors, anyone who is able to influence the locker room like he has, then you have a chance to do something special. Rod Smith, in his 11 years, had (118) wins. There is only one other player that has been able to capture that many wins in an 11-year time frame. That just doesn’t happen. And the unique thing about it is the only reason that Rod on a day-to-day basis has been able to accomplish this, is he put wining first. We did something special as an organization because Rod Smith would not ever talk about himself or talk about his stats. And Rod, I can not thank you enough for setting the tone for this organization, when you average 11 wins over 11 years. When people ask me, "Should Rod Smith be in the Hall of Fame?" You’re darn right he should. There is only one person, and that is Art Monk, that’s going into the Hall of Fame in his position who has caught more passes. There are 19 receivers (in the Hall of Fame) with Art coming into the Hall of Fame this year, and Rod Smith’s catches that he has rank second (in that group). Take a look at the Super Bowl rings, there’s only four guys ahead of him. Take a look at [receiving] yards of all the receivers in the Hall of Fame, there are only (six) ahead of him. But the thing that separates Rod Smith, it was never about the stats. One of the reasons we have one of the best running games in the National Football League on a consistent basis, is that your wide receivers have to be able to block on the field. He took as much pride in blocking for the running backs, for other people, as he did catching the football. In today’s society, that doesn’t happen very often. And I am just so proud to have a guy like this, that I am hope is with this organization for a long time. I don’t care what capacity. You always have a job here. We’ll have to talk about salary. Anyway, I love you, you have meant so much to us, to me, and I tell you what, I’ll always have your back. Thanks."
WIDE RECEIVER ROD SMITH
“I wanted to actually keep my job but that didn’t work out. I had a lot of things that I wanted to talk about. I was going to joke and say that I was going to come back, but I don’t want to do that. For one, it’s because of my two boys going into high school and I want to be able to see them play. I am definitely going to take you all (the organization) up on that offer. At least I know I can get a job somewhere, and that is a good thing. I don’t plan on working for the media, but I do plan on writing a book, let me just say that right up front. It won’t be anything dirty because there is nothing dirty about this organization.
This organization is top-notch and I have been very fortunate to play for the best owner in sports, not just pro football. I’ve been able to play for the best coach in sports. I have had some of the most amazing coaches and teammates. I have been blessed. It couldn’t have been better being a guy from a small school, Missouri Southern, from Texarkana, Arkansas, and getting to come to an establishment like this and get to be a part of something special. I see Keith Burns over there. It is hard, but with a guy like Keith by my side giving me help… I knew this was going to happen (tearing up). That is why I came prepared.
I have had an amazing time. The city has embraced me and my family. They all wished they could have been here today but we put it together last minute. Sacco (Broncos Vice President of Public Relations Jim Saccomano), thank you for doing that. I didn’t want to take up the guys, as far as camp, getting started and getting the Broncos back to the top.
People have been on my side. Where is Woody Paige? This guy inspired my career with one article. That is the only article I have ever read of his. It was bad. I told him I was going to talk about this. It was a preseason game and I was catching punts. I am trying to make the team and I am hungry. I fair caught a punt and I caught it on the seven. I did it twice. The next day he said that it was a good thing they didn’t throw Rod Smith a pass because he would have fair caught it. That pissed me off. I said, ‘You know what? I am going to prove that guy wrong.’ I never read another one of his articles by the way. It’s crazy, but the article inspired me. Woody is very good at what he does and it made me mad, but it inspired me. I wanted to prove that if the Broncos threw me the football I was going to catch it. So thank you Woody (Paige) for the first time ever. Thank you. Its also the last time I am going to thank you.
It has just been amazing. I have so many emotions going, so many players I want to talk about, so many families and so many people in this community that have helped me grow up. I really did grow up here in Denver. I am always going to be in Denver. I moved myself into this city for a reason. When you get embraced the way I have been embraced, by the fans, the ownership, the coaches and the people who work upstairs, it is amazing. I actually talked to (Ross Kurcab) today, the guy who does the turf at the stadium. I talked to Jake Plummer today and had a good laugh with him. All of these experiences was from me getting the opportunity. Wade Phillips gave me the first opportunity and then Mike Shanahan took over from there. I am so fortunate that I never wanted to or never had the opportunity to go anywhere else and I appreciate that you didn’t put me out there to test the market because the market for me has always been right here.
There are a lot of friends and family I want to talk about but I would be here all day. Also want to thank Jack Mills (agent). I actually signed with him without ever meeting him. (I signed with him) based off of his resume and based off of what people said about him. I have been with him for 14 years, and his character is very high and I knew I had picked the right guy when we came up here to sign my contract, they said, Jack you know where to go’ and pointed him upstairs. He knew exactly where to go, and I knew he had that type of relationship with the organization. It worked out great.
I was meant to be right here. When my son was born, the first football I ever bought him was orange and blue. That was when I was in college. It just so happens, it is the same color I have been wearing for 14 years. My mom, my sisters and brothers wanted to be here, but like I said we put this together at the last minute and with gas prices as high as they are, it is sad that gas prices are costing my family from being here. We have some other stuff planned this season. We are going to be attending games together as a group. They all wanted to wait on that because they love the Denver Broncos and they want to be a part of us. It is always going to be us because the Denver Broncos are always in my heart. I know the coaching staff taught me how to be a professional and I can’t thank them enough for that.
I gave everything I had and it cost me a couple of surgeries. I definitely want to talk about Greek (Broncos Head Athletic Trainer Steve Antonopulos) and his crew. There have been quite a few guys in their training room over the years that have helped me. Those guys have done a great job for me as well as the press staff—Paul Kirk, Dave (Gaylinn) and Patrick (Smyth). It is really hard to reach out to everybody individually, but I really appreciate all that you guys have done. You have made me, not only a better football player, but you made me a better man. I can’t thank you guys enough for that. I don’t want to take up a lot of your time.
I had some amazing mentors in my life. A few of them just passed recently and I would just like to thank them. My college football coach taught me how to dream big and it worked.
I’m going to miss being in that seat right there. I am going to miss the locker room. If I didn’t do anything else, I hope that I was a great teammate because all I ever wanted to do was win and to be a part of this organization I won. That’s all I got.
I appreciate all of your time. To the media members, I apologize for being all over you guys. That was part of my job. When you guys were writing stuff, some of that start up crap, my job was to take the bullets and at times I did a great job of that but I personally have nothing against you guys except for Woody.
The people I have in my life because of this organization are amazing, and I couldn’t ask for anything else. So I am done, thank you very much.”
On what he will do next
“Going to do some yard work. Honestly right now I have a lot of things going on. I have some projects going on. From day one when I walked into this building, I didn’t know where I was going to be, so I always prepared myself for life after football. Football just kept getting in the way for 14 years, thank god. I have some projects I have been working on for the past six or seven years and now I have the time to finish them up without me getting in the way. I can give a lot more time to my family because they deserve that. I also get to do a lot more traveling and have time to see some of my friends.
“I do have another thing to say, this is going to sound crazy but I want to thank four other organizations. the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Diego Chargers, the Oakland Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks. I know it is kind of crazy, but I played against those four teams more than any other team and their fans were amazing, even though they were booing and throwing stuff. I respected that. That is what the NFL is all about, going into a hostile environment with our coaches, our team and our trainers going in against everybody. It was amazing to be a part of the black hole, going into Arrowhead Stadium with all the fans chopping. In the Kingdome and at the Chargers, going into those environments, I want to thank them for that. That was a big part of my life.”
On Coach Shanahan’s assessment of him being in the Pro Football Hall of Fame
“I think Mike’s a brilliant man. I think this adds to his legacy. Honestly, I don’t know how to measure who goes into the Hall of Fame. I know people who didn’t put on cleats made it into the Hall of Fame. And there are some guys in this organization also. I would just like to congratulate Gary Zimmerman for getting inducted into the Hall of Fame. I played with him and John (Elway). Those are the only two guys to wear blue and orange to get to go in the Hall of Fame. We had tons of players throughout the history of the Denver Broncos organization had I think [the opportunity to get inducted]. I don’t know how they [the voters] judge it or what they base it on. I don’t know if it’s based on wins or losses or what, but I did everything I could and I would love to have a speech there one day. John started it off for us and hopefully every year we should have people on the ballot because of the people in this organization have done an excellent job of putting top notch players on the football field.”
On his future role in the Broncos’ organization
“Honestly, anything I could do to help. I just know that through my experiences of being in this organization I’ve been the longest established [current] player besides Tommy [Nalen]. Tommy is the old guy now, he’s the last guy left. Tommy was on the practice squad with me. Well, only a few weeks, he didn’t stay the whole time. Fortunately for the Denver Broncos he was able to get promoted [from the practice squad]. He’s a Hall of Fame center. He should be one of those guys [who should be inducted]. He’s an amazing talent. He was on the practice squad at one point. He was drafted right before ‘Mr. Irrelevant.’ That’s why I don’t like him because he was able to get drafted and I didn’t get drafted. I don’t like drafted guys. Even [Special Teams Assistant] Keith [Burns], he got drafted, but he’s my boy. I just want to help if I can. I don’t want to come in and be a distraction. At the same time I know there are some things I want to do outside of those gates with my family and friends and some of the business contacts I made over the years. A lot of that has been manifested based on what I’ve done for a living. I appreciate Mr. Bowlen and Mike for giving me the opportunity to be in this locker room for a long time.”
On the significance of wearing his two Super Bowl rings at his retirement ceremony
“My son was right there with me and he asked, ‘Where is the other one?’ So I pulled out the other drawer and I thought to myself that I was just going to wear one, but I realize that both of them were special. The type of organization we have is represented by these two rings. That’s the only thing we do is chase those two rings day-in and day-out. The guys that are coming tomorrow have already started back in March. If you want to win championships at the end of the season you have to win it in the offseason. And tomorrow begins their quest. And I expect them to do very well. I still talk to a lot of those guys all the time. They are family to me and pretty much every week we have something going on. Any way I could help them I’ll do it.”
“Anybody I’ve never signed an autograph for I’m sorry. I would like to say that because people would try to get you to sign all the time. Honestly, I tried, I’ve sent back so many because my mailbox was so full. I appreciate the fans. Even NFL fans in general, but the Broncos fans are special to me. I appreciate all of you guys really supporting me. When I see little kids running around in the mall with No. 80 jerseys on it makes you smile. They don’t know how much it means to me. Today, I’m letting you guys know if I never come up to you personally I appreciate every last one of you.”
HEAD COACH MIKE SHANAHAN
On his fondest memory of Rod Smith
“I think that the play that really sticks out for me is in the Super Bowl. We put a play on the sideline and [Atlanta S] Eugene Robinson was supporting a little bit different from what he had been practicing for and all of a sudden Rod saw it and took him down the sideline and all of a sudden it was a touchdown and it became the play of the game. I think the big plays that really stuck out in my mind are plays that we talked about briefly before about what winning is all about. That’s to fight to block a defensive back or safety as a wide receiver and you get no credit from anyone except his peers. The offensive line and the quarterback would say, ‘Hey, that’s how you work.’ That’s how you measure in my opinion how great a player is— When no one knows what you are doing except the players. When you are going to knock somebody out when you are 200 pounds and this guy is 230 pounds as a safety and they are looking out for you, that’s respect and that’s what he’s been able to do. We had another great one here in [WR] Ed McCaffrey who did exactly the same thing. That’s how you win championships and that’s why he has more rings over his career than anybody except one guy during those 11 years.”
On when he first thought that Rod Smith was the right guy
“What you do when you first come in as a head coach is try to look at film all the time. And you’re watching the wide receivers going against our defense and you have the scout team offense going against your first team defense. And you keep on looking at a guy and saying ‘Why can’t they cover this guy?’ Our starters should be able to cover our scout team wide receivers. Then you watch him on special teams and as a scout team special team player. Then you say, ‘Holy cow. I’ve got myself a football player.’ When you watch his work ethic just think about this: Six hundred practices, 13 years and he never missed one. I always say to win championships you have to have a work ethic, but you’ve got overachievers and you’ve got overachievers with ability, and you got overachievers with great ability. If you don’t have those guys you don’t win. If you’ve got overachievers with great ability then you have a chance to get in the Hall of Fame. That’s what we have in Rod Smith.”