Texans head coach Gary Kubiak had a big smile on his face when he found out wide receiver Rod Smith was elected to the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame on Thursday.
Kubiak was Smith’s offensive coordinator in Denver from 1995-2005, winning back-to-back Super Bowls in Smith’s first two seasons as a starter in 1997 and 1998.
“I’m not surprised,” Kubiak said in his office at Reliant Stadium. “Of all my time in Denver, obviously we had some great players through those championship years, but no greater example of what it is to be a pro and be a great leader and a great Bronco than Rod Smith, in the community and on the field.”
Smith went undrafted out of Missouri Southern State in 1994. After a year on the Broncos’ practice squad, he made the active roster in 1995, Kubiak’s first season on the Denver coaching staff.
Smith went on to set Broncos franchise records in receptions (849), receiving yards (11,389) and receiving touchdowns (68) in a 12-year career that featured three Pro Bowls (2000-01, 2005) and eight 1,000-yard seasons. He will be inducted into the Ring of Fame at halftime of the Texans’ Week 3 game at Denver on Sept. 23.
“He was a free agent who made his way up through football the hard way and then became a great player,” Kubiak said. “I still recall that big play (80-yard touchdown catch) he made in the Super Bowl against Atlanta, but he made many of those. For me as a coach, he was always the guy in the meeting room that held things together. I can’t tell you how many times I would get upset or something and he would walk over to me and tap on the shoulder and say, ‘I got him,’ or, ‘I got it,’ like, ‘I’ll go take care of that; you don’t worry about it.’ Great man, great person, great football player. Very happy for him, and I guess that’ll be exciting to see when we go down there.”
Smith’s best two seasons came in 2000 (100 catches, 1,602 yards, 8 TDs) and 2001 (113 catches, 1,343 yards, 11 TDs).
“Rod was an unselfish player,” Kubiak said. “Did a lot of dirty work for our football team, kind of like Kevin Walter does for the Houston Texans, as a blocker and those types of things. Here’s a guy who went from a free agent to a leader of a World Championship football team, and you can’t say much more than that.
“He’s a prototype football player. That’s what you’re looking for. A lot of guys have talent. There are guys that can run 4.4 and there’s guys that can run 4.6 and play like they’re 4.4, and that’s what Rod was. He played faster – he played better – than everything said he was supposed to play. He was very smart, had it all under control and did it all in one place for many years. That doesn’t happen very often nowadays, so hats off to him.”
Texans quarterbacks coach Karl Dorrell was Smith’s wide receivers coach in Denver from 2000-02. Texans general manager Rick Smith, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, tight ends coach Brian Pariani and wide receivers coach Larry Kirksey also were on Denver’s staff during Smith’s tenure with the team.
Tags: Brian Pariani, Gary Kubiak, Karl Dorrell, Kevin Walter, Larry Kirksey, Rick Dennison, Rick Smith
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