Once upon a time, Rod Smart was known as “The Rocket.” That was back in the days when he was a high-school football star in Lakeland, Fla. But then years passed, and he went on to join the Las Vegas Outlaws of the XFL. And, suddenly, “The Rocket” no longer was loaded for take-off.
Instead, Rod Smart became … “He Hate Me.”
“I’m not sure (how that happened),” he said on the latest Talk of Fame broadcast, “but I can kinda get an idea. If you have a rocket in front of you, and it’s steady going past you, soon enough you’re going to hate that rocket.”
Smart’s nickname became the rage of the XFL, so much so that fans knew him more for “He Hate Me” than his given name. Alas, the XFL didn’t last, and Smart – who was the league’s second-leading rusher – graduated to the NFL Carolina Panthers … where, he admitted, he considered putting his nickname on his back again.
“The person that actually did that was Ocho Cinco, Chad Johnson,” he said. “He put that on the back of his jersey. But I thought about it before he did. I just kinda thought it would be cool to be the first one to do it in the NFL.
“One thing about that (is) when you do it, you better bring the noise. (But) my role was kinda different in Carolina than it was in the XFL with the Outlaws. I was a starting back with the Outlaws. So I carried more weight.
“Not saying I didn’t carry any weight in Carolina. Because I did. I played a big role on special teams. It just made sense that if I was doing I was the starting running back.”
No mattter what you called him, Smart, who is a counselor today in Charlotte, N.C., made an impact. Before he and the XFL called it quits, two players from the Los Angeles Xtreme copied him – with one showing up with “I Hate He” on his jersey and the other with “I Hate He Too.”
Smart was amused.
“I didn’t hate them,” he said. “I thought it was funny. Because I was the original guy getting hated on. I already felt like through my years (in) childhood on up to adulthood … I always felt like a leader. And that kinda showed me that my leadership is very unique in the world.
“It was a great thing to see them take my moniker and use it themselves in their own way. It just shows my leadership … I passed It on down well.”