Category Archives: College Football HoF

Smith, Rod (WR-DEN)


Cards: Playoff Prestige 2004 Xtra Points, Leaf Rookies & Stars 2004 (072/250), Playoff 2005
Acquired: TTM 2017, C/o Home
Sent: 1/20   Received: 3/10    (48 days)

Rod Smith is considered one of the greatest undrafted wide receiver free agent acquisitions in NFL history. After going unselected out of tiny Missouri Southern State in 1994, Rod signed with the Denver Broncos.  Rod spent the entirety of the 1994 season on the practice squad, while the Broncos were going through a slow overhaul at WR.

A gifted receiver who displayed eagerness and unyielding work ethic, Rod felt he had to work twice as hard as other players, because not only did he come from a Division II school, he had to work his way off the practice squad.  In 1995 he was promoted to the active roster, contributing primarily on special teams. In week 3, Rod posted his first reception- a 43 yard touchdown bomb from John Elway over the top of Darrell Green to win the game against the Redskins. The catch signaled the beginning of Rod’s arrival at the NFL stage. Throughout the 1995 season and the following year, Rod saw increased play time alongside Ed McCaffrey, as Anthony Miller was winding down.

Rod played his first full season in 1997. His ascension is critical in Broncos lore as he was able to help Denver win the Super Bowl in 1997 and 1998. Over the next 6 consecutive seasons he’d post over 1,000 yards receiving, including a career high 1,602 receiving yards in 2000, and 113 receptions in 2001. He’d also earn All Pro/Pro Bowl nods in both seasons. Rod made one more Pro Bowl appearance in 2005 after recording 85 receptions for 1105 yards and 6 TDs.

Rod was on pace for another banner season in 2006 but suffered a hip injury. In the end, Rod had to have his entire hip replaced in 2007, which ended the promising wide receiver’s career too soon, as he owned nearly the entire Broncos receiving record books. As fans sit there and debate, there is no question to me that if Smith’s career continued, he’d be a shoo in for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His numbers and wins for a receiver are on par with that of Jerry Rice. Unfortunately there is a logger jam of players at receiver going back years that may curtail his induction.

In 2008, Rod was inducted into the Division II Football Hall of Fame. Soon thereafter, he also received honors from the College Football Hall of Fame (2009) and the Denver Broncos Ring of Honor (2012).
I was surprised to get Rod’s autograph on these cards. He also included a business card of his new self-help book, ‘The Rod Effect’ , which charts his life from rags to success outside of football.

G/Gs 183/125    REC  849    YDS 11389    AVG  13.4     TD 68    LG 85T

Dean, Fred (DE/LB)

Cards: Upper Deck Legends 1997, Topps 1979
Acquired: TTM 2016, C/o Home
Sent:  7/11   Received:  7/18   (7 days)*
* Donation enclosed

Fred Dean was a rangy linebacker from Louisiana Tech (392 tackles) that was drafted in the second round of the 1975 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers. He was converted to defensive end and set his sights on terrorizing quarterbacks in the AFC West. His best season for the Chargers occurred in 1978 when he recorded an unoffical 15.5 sacks. A core member of the ‘Bruise Brothers’, Fred played for the Chargers through the 1981 season, where he was traded during the season to the San Fransisco 49ers.  He served notice to the league by helping the 49ers win Superbowl XVI as the final cornerstone to San Fransisco’s defensive front. To top things off he also was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. During 1983, Dean single-handedly humiliated the New Orleans Saints to the tune of 6 sacks, en route to a season high 17 sack season.  He retired after the 1985 season and returned to his native Louisiana.

The awards have slowly but steadily trickled in for Fred since then, with LA Tech honoring him in 1990, the Pro Football Hall of Fame honoring him in 2008, and finally the College Football Hall of Fame in 2019. A fearsome force, one must wonder if the accolades as a premiere defender would have come quicker to Dean if sacks were recognized earlier as a statistic in the annals of NFL history.  He redefined the role of a pass rusher, helped modernize defenses, and be among the first situational pass rushers late in his career. Fred is also one of the rare players who has been recognized by two different teams as part of their anniversary teams. Such as the case it is hard to decide if Dean is represented better as a member of the Chargers or 49ers.

G/GS 141/82        TAC         SAC   93.0      FUM 13
INT 1         YDS 22         AVG 22.0         LG 22T        TD 1

Pruitt, Greg

Card: Topps 1978
Acquired: 2016, Future Considerations

An elusive and explosive back out of the backfield at the University of Oklahoma, Greg Pruitt finished 3rd in Heisman voting in 1971 and 2nd in 1972. The All-American rushed for 3,122 yards and 41 touchdowns for the Sooners over his time there.  Measuring up at 5’10”, 190 Pruitt was lucky not to take a pounding, because defenders rarely got squared up on him.

The Cleveland Browns were intrigued by the diminutive back,  and selected Greg with their second round pick of the 1973 draft slotting him behind their future HOF runningback Leroy Kelly. Pruitt was as advertised and immediately added an extra charge to the Browns offense primarily as a kick returner and punt returner. In 4 of his first 5 seasons, Greg earned Pro Bowl honors. It’d be in 1975 that he’d really hit his stride as a runningback, cranking out 3 straight 1,000+ yard seasons in a row as well as demonstrating a knack as a reliable receiving option out of the backfield.  In 1974 and 1975, Pruitt had nearly 1,800 all purpose yards, and achieved at least 1,100 all purpose yards 6 times over 12 seasons.  He’d enjoy career highs at receptions in 1980 (50) and then 1981 (65), before taking his show to Oakland to join the Raiders as their return man. In 1983 he’d lead the NFL in punt returns, putting together a whopping 58 returns for 666 yards and a 97 yard TD, earning his final pro bowl berth. The 58 returns and 97 yard TD were second in NFL history, while the 666 yards was an NFL record (all since surpassed).  He’d win a Superbowl XVIII ring and retire after the 1984 season.

Greg Pruitt had some amazing highlight film of him running through defenders hands as they literally tore his jerseys off his pads. The problem was he intentionally wore those tear away jerseys so he could shake off those pesky tacklers.  In response the NFL enacted the ‘Greg Pruitt Rule’ preventing any player from wearing tear away jerseys in 1979.

Greg was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999, and the Cleveland Browns Legends Class of 2001.  Many of his records still stand tall on the Browns records lists, both single season and career. He currently lives in the Cleveland area where he owns a construction company.

DeadHorse went to a nearby signing to him in Ohio and came up with a few signatures for me from old Browns runningback greats Earnest Byner, Kevin Mack, and Greg Pruitt.  Thankfully DeadHorse was paying attention as I got Greg and Mike Pruitt confused. He switched out my Mike Pruitt card and came through with a nice autograph for the collection.

G/GS  158/82     RUSH   1196    YDS  5672    AVG 4.7    TD 27   LG 78t
REC 328     YDS 3069    AVG 9.4    TD 18    LG 60t
KR  106    YDS 2514   AVG 23.7    TD 1    LG 88t
PR  194    YDS 2007  AVG 10.3    TD 1   LG 97t