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Horse Tracks: The curious case of Neil Smith’s high school class ring

Lost in Kansas City, found by a Broncos fan. Returned to Neil Smith decades later.

Mile High Report member, Zach Eckels, had a very interesting story to tell me in an email this week. So interesting, that it had to be shared with our fellow Broncos fans. The story had to do with a high school class ring and Kansas City Chiefs great and a Super Bowl champion defensive end with the Denver Broncos, Neil Smith.

So let’s take a break from the daily quarterback debate and enjoy this neat story.

Jack and Dick’s Pawn, in Junction City, KS, has been in my wife's family since 1958. Although it is now owned by our extended family, Dick was her grandfather. He and his wife, Charlene, worked in the store through the early '90s. Dick died in 2001 and Charlene died this past October, ending a major era for our family.

When class rings came in, their only value for a pawn shop would be the price of gold. From what we can tell, Charlene would occasionally pay for the ring herself and place it in a family safe for their retirement. Going through her safe, there was a decent number of rings that had been collected over the years. They were divided up among her four children in March.

When my wife's mom received her small bag of rings, she allowed us to make a trip over to pick out a couple for ourselves. (I'm currently wearing the gold band I selected on my pinky finger.) While we were there, we also looked through the class rings she was working on returning. It was a monumental task, but she's a very sentimental person who knows how valuable they might be to their original owners.

While looking through the class rings, I found a “Neil Smith” ring with a football helmet and instantly started joking about it belonging to the two-time Broncos Super Bowl champion. Living among Chief fans my entire life, I've always celebrated the bond he made between bitter rivals. What started out as a fun jab at my friends like the Jamaal Charles signing (my junior high email was neil_smith_90), soon turned into a mutual respect for a player we all love.

Since the school on the ring was so far away, my mother in law agreed to let us keep the ring as one of our selections just for the joke of owning defensive lineman Neil Smith’s high school class ring. It wasn’t until several hours later that we even thought about looking up where the actual Neil Smith attended high school just to officially rule out it actually being his.

The high school was such a unique name, McDonogh No. 35, that when the graduation year and middle initial also lined up, we were beside ourselves. We instantly started calling all of our immediate family to share the tale with them. And our four-year-old's favorite player instantly became "Neil Swift."

After a few dreams about being on Pawn Stars, our task to return the ring began. We wanted to make sure it ended up in the right hands but also hoped to surprise him. Suddenly, everyone we talked to seemed to have a friend of a friend who knew Neil. I tried social media, I tried contacting Arrowhead Pride who contacted a local radio station, I tried looking up his family members and nothing seemed to be working.

Finally, we got into contact with his booking agent. We were a bit nervous when he asked us to mail the ring to him in Florida, not knowing what their relationship looked like. But after my wife did some Facebook stalking, we soon found out that they were relatives and felt comfortable enough to send the ring to him.

Sometime around Memorial Day, Neil Smith was surprised with the ring at a party where a couple of his old classmates were present. We've heard that he was flabbergasted and had no idea how his high school ring ended up in a pawn store in Kansas. We couldn't have planned a better presentation of our find any better. What started as a joke has turned into one of the coolest experiences I've ever had. For a short time I possessed a ring that belonged to a Super Bowl Champion and gave a whole new meaning to the Neil Smith action figure I've kept on my desk all these years. I just hope that ring gives Mr. Smith back a small fraction of the joy that he helped give to all of us two decades ago.

What a crazy way for Neil Smith to get his class ring back. It is fitting that it was a Broncos fan who helped Neil get his ring back. I mean, that’s why he signed with Denver anyway, right?

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