Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JIMMY SMITH'S GREATEST RECEPTION: A MOTHER'S LOVE Tracing the Success of the Jaguars' Wide Receiver Is Easy -- When in Doubt, He Always Reverted to the Same Thing . . . Etta's Way

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

JIMMY SMITH'S GREATEST RECEPTION: A MOTHER'S LOVE Tracing the Success of the Jaguars' Wide Receiver Is Easy -- When in Doubt, He Always Reverted to the Same Thing . . . Etta's Way

Article excerpt

He was 11 years old and playing on a Pop Warner team called the Holy Family Wildcats. He remembers running a 10-yard out route, catching the pass, turning upfield and sprinting toward the first touchdown of his life.

That's when, out of the corner of his eye, Jimmy Smith saw this blur on the sideline running beside him and then past him and screaming, "Run, baby! Run, baby, run!"

"When he caught the pass, I couldn't help myself," Etta Smith recalls. "It was just so spontaneous. He caught it, and I instinctively leaped out of the bleachers. I caught him about midfield and ran alongside of him the rest of the way."

Moms.

They're always there every step of the way, playing hurt, never taking a day off, never demanding to have their contracts renegotiated. They're always calling the right plays and being master motivators.

Jimmy Smith knows this better than anyone. Without his mom, Etta, he wouldn't be a three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Jaguars. Without his mom, Etta, he might not even be alive.

It was Etta who was there at Jimmy's hospital bedside 24 hours a day, seven days a week back in the summer of 1993. Smith was an unproven reserve wideout for the Dallas Cowboys then, and a few days earlier he'd complained of stomach pains. He was taken to the hospital where his appendix was removed. The next day, he went home with his mom and dad, Jimmy Sr., but his temperature shot up and he returned to the hospital two days later.

Doctors explained that before his appendix was removed, apparently it had leaked pockets of poisonous fluids that infected his stomach and intestines. The doctors administered massive doses of antibiotics, but, still, the fever remained. Etta stayed at his bedside, praying, reciting Bible verses and badgering doctors. And day after day, she watched her son's body deteriorate.

"He was melting away," remembers Etta, a retired Jackson, Miss., school administrator.

Finally, mom had had enough. She went on the warpath, ordering the hospital to bring in a team of specialists.

"If it wasn't for my mother ordering and demanding that they bring in some

experts to come in and examine me and find out what the problem was, I don't think I'd be sitting here today," Jimmy says.

Eventually, Jimmy's body recovered, but his mind needed nurturing, too. At Dallas he had been a highly touted, second-round draft pick, but a broken leg in his first year was followed by the life-threatening intestinal infection in his second year. Although Smith had barely been on the field, Dallas owner Jerry Jones asked him to take a pay cut before the '94 season. Jimmy refused and was waived. And then he was waived again by Philadelphia.

Etta again had to take over. Jimmy was angry. He was depressed. And as he moped around while sitting out the 1994 season, she preached to her son every day, filling his head with inspirational passages and motivational messages. …

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