When asked about the significance of reaching the 10,000-yard plateau, Smith smiled and thanked nearly every quarterback—by name—who had ever thrown him a pass in his 11-year career with the Panthers.
The list included everyone from Rodney Peete and Vinny Testaverde to Jimmy Clausen and Brian St. Pierre and, of course, Jake Delhomme.
He also thanked many of the receivers who took him under their wings when Smith was a young wide receiver trying to figure out how to make it in the NFL.
“Isaac Byrd, Karl Hankton, Ricky Proehl, Muhsin Muhammad and Donald Hayes because when I first came here, they were the guys who took me under their wing and showed me how to play. There were times I was annoying to them and I followed them and watched them.’’ — Steve Smith on former Panthers wideouts who helped him along in his career
Greatest Panther?Unless he pulls a Rae Carruth in the next five years, Smith is virtually assured a spot in the Panthers' Hall of Honor, where he will join Sam Mills as the second Panthers player immortalized outside of Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
There have been dozens of great players to wear the Panthers uniform in the team's first 17 seasons, including Mills, Reggie White and TV's Keyshawn Johnson, and Smith may be the greatest Panther of them all.
But is Smith a shoo-in for the real Hall of Fame? You know, the Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio?
NFL Hall of Fame
There are currently 21 wide receivers in the Hall of Fame, many who rank ahead of Smith in the major receiving categories—receptions, yardage and touchdowns—and others whom he has already surpassed.
Entering Week 15 of the 2011 NFL season, Smith ranks 34th in career receiving yardage with another 2,000 yards to go to crack the top 20.He's behind current players Hines Ward, Chad Ochocinco and Reggie Wayne and he still trails his former Panthers teammate, Muhsin Muhammad.
Smith may get in one day, but he has not done enough just yet in his career to warrant acceptance into the most exclusive fraternity in professional American football.
If Smith continues to play well for another four or five years, then he may climb into the top 10 receivers of all time and deserve admission into the Hall, but until then, his opportunity for football immortality may not come for at least 15-20 years after he hangs up his cleats.
For now, though, he is a joy to watch in a Carolina Panthers uniform and one of the greatest Panthers we've ever seen.
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