Needless to say, it has not been the most stellar week for the reputation of former USC pass-catchers. Time will tell if Steve Smith's retirement is a positive aberration from this tragic rule of three and a light shed on Southern California's educational merit, or yet another fallen horse and an umpteenth "in addition to" footnote in his interjected career.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced Smith's retirement this Wednesday evening due to years of nagging knee injuries, nearly two months after signing him as a free agent. A 2006 All-American back when the Pac-12 was two programs lighter, the New York Giants' 2007 second-round pick is most widely known for his 2009 Pro Bowl campaign - 1,220 yards and seven touchdowns off of a franchise-record 107 receptions (second in the league to to Wes Welker's 123). He lasted six short seasons.
He was as prima donna as a small but smart slot man, precise route runner, and playmaking possession receiver ever needed to be. He was Welker (albeit slower) with a Super Bowl ring as a rookie and minus the Championship drops, but without the New England prestige despite suiting up for the Big Apple Blue. While rarely being given the opportunity to even think about stabbing the field or salsa dancing as a true No. 1 receiver, as he was always technically surpassed on the depth chart by the likes of eventual bust Dwayne Jarrett or an elderly Amani Toomer, his Trojans MVP (2006) and BBI Giant of the Year (2009) awards softly yet notably exemplified his appreciated value and likability.
Nevertheless, my brother and I assuredly aren't the only ones who exclaimed "Carolina?!" upon initially hearing the news.
Unfortunately, the other Steve Smith was never able to stand out or the make the lasting household impression that his flashes of displayed potential and services - statistically and intangibly - suggested he should have. It's hardly his fault, and he briefly deserved it.
Surely he was adored and apprehended by his acquired fan bases, but more casually throughout the nation he was the fifth-most recalled Steve Smith, after the Panthers' future fringe Hall of Fame candidate at the same position, Stan's son in American Dad, 90s NBA journeyman, and that generic guy you assume you've known at some point in your life because his name is Steve Smith. Seriously, it's one thing to boldly latch on to the surname, but at least J.K. Rowling had the right idea in regards to "Zacharias" or "Hepzibah", the bloody Hufflepuffs.
Then there's the teams he played for. USC's aerial attack constantly spits wide receivers into the NFL like orange wedges you find in the cafeteria's macaroni and cheese, and therefore they mesh together in a cardinal n gold hot tub. Eli Manning developed him into a favorite third-down target in 2008, but the fiscal G-Men wrung out all they required from Smith by the 2011 offseason when they moved on to Hakeem Nicks and company.
Add on the plague of knee injuries that limited him to nine games in 2010, nine games with the Philadelphia Eagles under a measly one-year $2 million contract, and zero appearances as a member of the St. Louis Rams in 2012, and Steve Smith never had an honest chance.
Of course, this is just a heartbreaking loss in the realms of the gridiron. The man is merely 28 years old, and he is preserving his remaining health for the many years he still has before him.
This is the smartest a USC football alumni has seemed in a very long time. Knock on wood as far as him reverting to drugs, bounties, boosters, or stalking down neighborhood pop stars that everyone else loves more than him.
Not as a Trojan and childhood Giants follower, but as a football fan, his contributions on and off the field to highly-ranked USC squads and February upset specials shall stand out in my compulsive and spiteful memory, and in comparison to all the other Steve Smiths.
Then again, American Dad is underrated.