When the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its preliminary class for 2018, there were 108 names — including that of former defensive end Neil Smith.
No surprise there. The former Kansas City and Denver star was named to six Pro Bowls, was a four-time All-Pro, was the 1993 league leader in sacks, was a two-time Super Bowl champion and was chosen to the 1990s’ all-decade team.
Yet his name didn’t appear on the Hall’s 2017 preliminary list. Honest. So that error was corrected this year, and, as Smith related to the Talk of Fame Network on its latest broadcast, he was relieved he hadn’t been forgotten.
“I really felt like it’s just like the NFL: Sometimes you’re out of sight, out of mind,” he said. “There are a lot of players who are out there, such as myself, that, once you’re done with the league, if you’re not in front of that television doing sports or, perhaps, on the radio, then that’s the kind of things that happen to you. I’m for sure feeling well about this.”
Smith should be included … and maybe should be included in the Pro Football Hall, too. After all, he has 104-1/2 career sacks, despite spending most of his career trying to beat former teammate and Hall-of-Famer Derrick Thomas to the quarterback. Thomas had 126-1/2 sacks, but, unlike Smith, didn’t win two Super Bowls, sometimes a consideration when it comes to Hall-of-Fame candidates.
A complete player is really what you’re looking for, and I had everything that a complete player needs as far as trying to get in.
Yet Neil Smith has never been discussed as a finalist. Worse, he’s never been a Hall-of-Fame finalist. And, worst of all, his name didn’t appear on last year’s preliminary list.
That might discourage some. But Neil Smith is not one of them.
“My main objective was that I wanted to make myself a complete player,” he said. “I never had no weakness as far as playing football. I was a run defender before I was a pass rusher. I learned how to rush the passer as I went along into the game.
“I was a dominant run stopper coming from the Big Eight (he attended Nebraska) at one time, (so I learned) how to play the strong side … and, then, when plays come to me, take care of them. And when plays are away from me, chase them down. And then, when the pass rush came, I had to never leave the field, and then go hunt and get sacks. So a complete player is really what you’re looking for, and I had everything that a complete player needs as far as trying to get in.
“The good thing about it is, fellas, I could sit here, and I could try to pinpoint each position. But the number-one objective is that, you know what, do I have any regrets? No, because I left it all out there. I have no regrets how my career unfolded and how it ended. Because I became that world champion.”