- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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When he watched his quarterback go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004, Rod Smith wondered if his bust would be bronzed next to John Elway’s some day.
Now that he's entered the Denver Broncos’ ring of fame, the rag-to-riches receiver still wonders if he will end up in the Canton, Ohio museum.
It’s an interesting question. Will Rod Smith be a Pro Football Hall of Famer?
There’s no doubt the undrafted free agent turned star receiver has a strong resume, however, he played a position which has not been overly valued by hall of fame voters in the recent past. Tim Brown, Cris Carter and Andre Reed are part of a receiver logjam waiting to be elected to the hall.
Smith may have a long wait, if he makes it at all, even though he has won two Super Bowl rings. He is 11th in NFL history in career receptions (849), 17th in career receiving yards (11,389) and tied for 30th in career receiving touchdowns (68). He caught 70 or more catches for nine straight seasons, which is tied for the second-longest streak in NFL history. His career reception and receiving yardage totals is the best in league history for undrafted players.
Known as one of the hardest workers in the league while he played, Smith himself thinks he deserves to be inducted, although he knows it won’t be easy.
“Well what are they basing the Hall of Fame on?” Smith asked reporters Thursday in an interview to discuss his induction into the Broncos’ ring of fame. “What do you base it on? Do you base it on wins? I have some of those. Do you base it on catches? I have a lot of those. Touchdowns … and the unsung stuff to me is the blocking that Eddie [McCaffrey] and myself and the other guys I played with. You look at the running backs in my era and how many yards they rushed for. I take that personally because it was about the team to me. Honestly, there are a ton of guys that my numbers are way better than theirs, so why not be considered for it? When I went into the business I wasn’t looking at that, but once I got in the business and I saw that those things were possible. I went to John Elway’s induction into the hall of fame and I said it’s possible. It’s hard to see it until you see somebody else kind of go through it. When I saw John get inducted, I was very emotional that day, because I knew a piece of me went. But, I said, 'Why not be right beside him? Why not have a bust right beside him?' One thing I can say is this: I don’t get to vote, and if I did, I would vote for me because I gave them everything I had. That’s all I can do. I tried to be the best teammate I could. I tried to represent the game, the NFL shield as best as I could. Those who vote will hopefully see it the same way. That’s all I can do.”
Smith certainly has a case for Canton. The trouble is he plays a position where many players have a case, so his wait for enshrinement may be a long one.