Jerry Smith (American football)

For the American football coach, see Jerry Smith (coach).
Jerry Smith
No. 87
Position: Tight end
Personal information
Date of birth: (1943-07-19)July 19, 1943
Place of birth: Eugene, Oregon
Date of death: October 15, 1986(1986-10-15) (aged 43)
Place of death: Silver Spring, Maryland
Career information
High school: San Lorenzo (CA)
College: Arizona State
NFL Draft: 1965 / Round: 9 / Pick: 118
AFL draft: 1965 / Round: 18 / Pick: 141
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Receiving yards: 5,496
Average: 13.1
Touchdowns: 60
Player stats at

Gerald "Jerry" Sanford Smith (July 19, 1943 – October 15, 1986) was a professional American football tight end for the National Football League's Washington Redskins from 1965–1977. By the time he retired he held the NFL record for most career touchdowns by a tight end.[1] A 2014 documentary from the NFL Network's A Football Life series profiles his career, as well as his "double life as a closeted gay man and a star athlete".[1]

Professional career

Playing for Otto Graham's, Vince Lombardi's and George Allen's Redskins, Smith had a stellar career. He played in the 1973 Super Bowl VII, and Sports Illustrated called him "an outstanding receiver among tight ends, with the ability to break open for a long gain". In his career Smith caught 421 passes, including 60 touchdowns, a record for tight ends at the time. He was named All-Pro twice and held several NFL records that stood for years. In 2011, the Professional Football Researchers Association named Smith to the PRFA Hall of Very Good Class of 2011 [2]

In 1971, as a part of a USO tour in association with the National Football League, Smith, along with other stars John Brown, Butch Byrd, Fred Hoaglin, George Kunz, and Tom Woodeshick, visited and signed autographs for wounded military personnel in Vietnam.


Smith died of AIDS on October 15, 1986. He was the first former professional athlete to die of the disease.[1] Although he acknowledged that he had AIDS, he never publicly acknowledged he was gay.[1] Head coach Vince Lombardi, who had a gay brother, demanded a homophobia-free locker room but "not even the legendary Lombardi could insulate him from the crippling societal homophobia of the era".[1] Smith's sexuality was confirmed after his death by former teammate pro NFL football player David Kopay, who had come out of the closet years earlier.[1] The Redskins logo, along with Jerry Smith's uniform number 87, was part of the AIDS quilt.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 NFL Documentary Profiles Closeted Gay Player
  2. "Hall of Very Good Class of 2011". Retrieved November 23, 2016.


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