Steve Smith surprises 7-year-old fan

Updated: March 20, 2014, 12:17 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith on Thursday replaced the "ugly face cry'' of a 7-year-old fan with a smile.

Smith, who signed with the Baltimore Ravens 24 hours after being released by Carolina a week ago, surprised Gavin Simone on ABC's "Good Morning America" with a hug and the first "Smith Sr" No. 89 Ravens jersey.

He sought out Simone on social media after seeing a video the child's father made in which he told his son Smith had been released.

"It touched me a little bit,'' Smith said Tuesday on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" show. "He was bawling. He had the ugly face cry.''

So Smith set up the surprise meeting with Simone on GMA. There were no tears, just smiles.

He tweeted out a picture of himself standing behind Gavin, who is holding up his new "Smith Sr" jersey.

Smith also promised to bring Simone to his football camp this spring in Charlotte.

"Had to meet him and hook him up with some new Ravens gear,'' Smith said on GMA.

Smith came up with the idea to put Smith Sr. on the back of his jersey this season when he and his wife discovered they were going to have his namesake.

There were no indications at the time the Panthers would cut their all-time leading receiver. Speculation about that didn't begin until a few weeks ago, and it became reality last Thursday.

That's when Simone's dad filmed the video that went viral.

If you missed the video that Gavin's dad put on YouTube, it began with Gavin slapping at the camera after his dad told him Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman fired Smith because he was too old.

As Gavin began to cry, his sister, Sophia, piped up "Now we have to cheer for Cam Newton, my favorite!" she said of the Carolina quarterback.

Asked who he would cheer for now that Smith was gone, Gavin screamed: "NOOOOObodddddy!''

"I HATE THE PANTHERS!'' Gavin then yelled.

When the dad suggested Gavin cheer for Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly, Gavin said, "I HATE Luke Kuechly!'' Sophia, again, had a different opinion.

"I love Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly,'' she said.

Responded Gavin, "I'm not gonna like anybody.''

That all changed on Thursday, as the tears turned to a smile.

Said Smith on "Mike & Mike" on Tuesday: "Here's the funniest thing. I actually met Gavin three or four years ago. ... That's why he actually bawled. Our kids actually interacted a few times. He also knows me as Boston's dad ... our youngest."

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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