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Catching Up With Former Utes: Steve Smith Sr.

Throughout a 16-season career in the NFL, Smith put together a plethora of highlights worthy of backing up his taunts.
Baltimore Ravens’ wide receiver, Steve Smith, answers questions from attendees during the two-day children’s football camp June 24 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Courtesy of jenikirbyhistory)


“If you see this face, that means I scored.”

“Ice up, son.”

These are some of the most notable quotes from one of the NFL’s greatest all-time trash-talkers, Steve Smith Sr. Throughout a 16-season career in the NFL, Smith put together a plethora of highlights worthy of backing up his taunts. A competitor known for being the smartest person on the gridiron, Smith set himself apart during his time at the University of Utah.


Smith’s tenure at Utah was a transformative period for his game, but it almost never happened. Smith began his collegiate football career at Santa Monica College, a junior college in Southern California. While playing football for the school, Smith worked at a Taco Bell off-campus in his free time.

In an interview with The Athletic, Smith reminisced, saying, “A lot of coaches knew I was working there. If I wasn’t at school or on the field, I was at Taco Bell. … I would work lunch hour at Taco Bell, and that’s how I got bus money, 75 cents each way back then, and got food money … and I would get to eat.”

It was at the Taco Bell where Smith worked that he and Fred Graves, Utah’s wide receiver coach at the time, would meet and talk about subjects including football and life.

“We’d sit down at Taco Bell and talk. … It gave him somebody to talk to and listen,” Graves said an interview with The Athletic.  “He was a very smart football player. He knew, and the things he didn’t know, you got a ton of questions. He was going to find out if he didn’t know. He was one of those guys.”

After two years at Santa Monica College, Smith transferred to the U, where he would go on to play for two seasons. Interestingly, Smith’s teammate at Santa Monica College, Chad Johnson, now known to some as “Ocho Cinco,” would’ve joined Smith at Utah if his academics had met the mark.

In two seasons playing with the Utes in the Mountain West Conference, Smith garnered over 1600 yards along with 12 touchdowns. In 2000, in a game against San Diego State, Smith rattled off a two-catch, 143-yard and two-touchdown effort.

At 5 ‘9″, some scouts had concerns about Smith’s size entering D1 football. Smith, however, silenced all the doubters in his time at Utah, as he averaged 20.6 yards per catch and became a bona fide deep threat known for his contested catch ability.


Entering the 2001 NFL draft, Smith was a highly regarded college receiver with plenty of upside, but apprehension about his size and lack of play in a Power 5 conference remained. Ultimately, Smith would become the 11th receiver selected in the draft by the Carolina Panthers at 74th overall.

From the get-go Smith’s on-field presence was felt. His first-ever play in the NFL was an opening kickoff return for a touchdown. Moreover, as a rookie, Smith gained All-Pro honors for his role as a kick and punt returner. His 1994 all-purpose yards ranked 4th in the entire league.

Entering his sophomore season, Smith converted to a full-time wide receiver, the position he would dominate for the remainder of his 16-year NFL career. His best season at the position would come in 2005 when his 1563 yards receiving, 12 receiving touchdowns and 103 receptions led the league. For these league-leading statistics Smith would earn his second of five Pro Bowl honors and second first-team All-Pro honor. Additionally, leading the league in these three categories would earn Smith what is deemed as the receiver “Triple Crown.”

Smith would spend the bulk of his career with the team that drafted him. As it stands, Smith is still the Panthers’ all-time leader in both receiving yards (12,197) and receiving touchdowns (67). On Oct. 6, 2019, Smith was added to the Panthers Hall of Honor, as the team’s first former player addition in over 20 years.

After a final three seasons in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens, Smith would call it quits on a long and successful career. At the end of his NFL tenure, Smith amassed 14,731 career receiving yards, good enough for the eighth most in NFL history, 1,031 receptions (12th in NFL history) and 81 receiving touchdowns (tied-30th most in NFL history).

In addition to his many exploits on the gridiron, Smith is widely regarded as one of the NFL’s most outspoken trash-talkers of all time. In Week 11 of the 2013 NFL season, the Carolina Panthers would match up against the New England Patriots in what was a clash between two of the league’s most formidable teams. During the game, Smith would find himself matched up with Patriot’s premier corner, Aqib Talib, and after torching him for a 42-yard strike would deliver a quote that will forever summarize the intensity he played with on the field.

When asked about the matchup with Talib postgame, Smith said, “I don’t know, you go ask him, ’cause he didn’t finish the game. … Ice up, son, ice up.”

A player that should assuredly be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame sometime in the near future, Smith’s life and career can be traced back to humble roots. In his retirement, Smith has given back greatly to the sport he dedicated much of his youth to. Nowadays, he can be found making regular appearances as an analyst for NFL Network, working with the Carolina Panthers’ media department on content and hyping up his alma mater before big games.

Moreover, Smith continues to give back to communities that made him the player and man he is today. According to The Athletic, Smith and his wife Angie have an endowment scholarship to Utah and continue to give back to the school.

“Contributing to that school [Utah], being part of that school, it is not just something that I’m doing it because it sounds nice. I owe them a lot,” Smith said.


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About the Contributor
Austin Eames, Sports Writer
Austin Eames began writing for the Daily Utah Chronicle as a junior. Now a senior at the U, he writes for the Sports desk. Originally from Mission Viejo, California, he loves the beach but was willing to trade it in for the gorgeous Utah mountains. He loves most if not all sports, especially Lakers basketball and Chargers football. In his free time, you can find him in the never-ending pursuit of improving his golf game.

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    BradAug 18, 2023 at 10:02 pm

    Hey Steve, I’m a big fan of your but the Panthers O-line is terrible and u play it off, u know the truth but u backslide, they won’t win 6 games this season but u a joke cause u about the money and not the truth..