JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - He's the latest Jacksonville Jaguar to be elevated to elite status. Former wide receiver Jimmy Smith, who wore number 82, was inducted Sunday into the Pride of the Jaguars -- an exclusive group consisting of Jags who have made an impact on and off the field. But Smith's football career has been marred by his personal struggles. He recently sat down with Channel 4 to talk about his career in the River City, his addiction to drugs, and how he's choosing to view his induction -- not as a notch on his own belt -- but as a beacon of hope for others.
In his 10 seasons with the Jaguars, Smith became the franchise's all-time leading receiver. When the team picked him up for its inaugural year in 1995, Smith had been sitting out the '94 season after being cut by the Eagles. Despite seeing no football action that year, the call from the Jaguars didn't elicit much excitement.
"My expectations of Jacksonville, I wasn't really fond of coming here. I felt like the Jaguars would be another revolving door. I remember telling my father, 'I don't want to go to Jacksonville. It's a new team. I want to go to an established team.' As crazy as it seemed, it just happened to be the perfect situation for me," explained Smith.
Coach Tom Coughlin saw the talent in him. Smith says Coughlin made sure to bring out that talent not only in him, but also the other players in that very first training camp.
"It was the toughest camp I'd ever been to. It was about six weeks long and we practiced, our only off day was on Sunday. How I made it through that camp, it was God's will," said Smith. "I have to admit, we didn't like the way Coughlin ran the team, but if you ask any of those guys who were on that '95 team, I guarantee they'll say their lives are better than before he came into their lives."
Smith garnered the nickname "Lightning" to teammate Keenan McCardell's "Thunder," and both players electrified the fans. With Smith on the team, the Jags reached the playoffs five times. But Smith's on-field showmanship and confidence belied the troubles brewing in his personal life -- troubles related to drugs.
Smith was first arrested in 2001 and eventually was sentenced to a six-year prison term in 2012. He was released early, and he thanks the support of the community for getting him through.
"I owe a lot to the city. I owe a lot to the fan base and franchise for supporting me during my journey in my struggles," he said. "I didn't want to come back to Jacksonville with just my name up there. I want to use this as a platform or springboard to bring forth the awareness of, 'You can overcome, you can overcome.'"
Football has taught Smith that you have to rely on others for help to face your demons.
"I'm happy to be sitting here today with a smile on my face -- healthy, and happy, and a legend," he told Channel 4.
It's an important lesson he feels everyone needs to hear.
"That journey has been tough, it's not over yet. A friend was talking to me and he mentioned that, 'You are an all-pro at getting back up.' And that's the message I want to spread throughout -- to every kid, to every fan, to every adult, everyone. Be an all-pro at getting back up, because you're going to get knocked down," said Smith. "I'm happy to be sitting here today with a smile on my face, healthy and happy and a legend," Smith said following his induction ceremony.
Smith joins Wayne and Delores Weaver, Mark Brunell, Fred Taylor and Tony Boselli as members of the Pride of the Jaguars.
Copyright 2016 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.