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After reported missing Rod “He Hate Me” Smart found safe

H. Darr Beiser- USA TODAY Sports
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One of the most famous figures of the original attempt at the XFL spring football league, and a man with Florida ties, had been missing for several days, but has now been found safe.

Rod “He Hate Me” Smart is arguably the most known player from the one and only season at the XFL played in 2001. That’s because he not only had a humorous nickname, but put it on the back of his Las Vegas Outlaws Jersey. Then, Smart became a nationally known, almost immediately, and would go on to play in the Super Bowl.

Smart began his ascent at Western Kentucky and eventually found his way to the NFL and the Carolina Panthers. His career in Charlotte included, being part of the Super Bowl run in 2003 where Smart participated in football’s biggest game in their narrow loss to the New England Patriots.

However, in recent days his family and friends in South Carolina had become concerned, because Smart had not been heard from in almost a week. Tuesday night authorities in Lancaster County, South Carolina, however, reported that Smart had been located and is safe.

Smart’s rise to XFL Fame began at Lakeland High School, as a member of the Dreadnaughts and one of the more famous programs in the state. Smart was not a starter for much of his senior season but did contribute, as both fullback and running back on the 1994 team.

Smart’s grades were not good enough for him to get an opportunity at the Division one level, but he ended up at Western Kentucky playing for their legendary coach, Jack Harbaugh, and running for over 2,100 yards and 21 touchdowns in his Hilltoppers career.

Not surprisingly, Smart went undrafted in the 2000 NFL Draft, but was signed on by the San Diego Chargers before being cut at the end of pre-season.

That’s when Smart hooked on with McMahon’s start-up XFL in the spring of 2001 and after being allocated to the Las Vegas Outlaws chose the nickname “He Hate Me” for the back of his jersey instead of some variation of his name. Smith said at the time, and has repeated in interviews since that he basically used that as a mantra for his own self confidence. And, that he was going to make others “hate him” for how good he was ,and how hard he was working to make it as a pro football player.

McMahon and the XFL marketed the nickname and Smart as the league got off to a fast start with a bunch of television audience the first two weeks and Buzz. As you probably know by now, all of it fizzled and the XFL folded after just one season. (As a side note, they are trying to make a comeback 19 years later in the spring of 2020.)

Back to Smart. After the XFL showcase opportunity, he signed on with the Panthers (above) and eventually, became an excellent punt and kickoff return weapon for them. Smart returned a kick 100 yards for a touchdown in the 2003 season against the New Orleans Saints. And, he also famously took the opening kickoff for Carolina against New England in Super Bowl 38 and later returned four punts for 74 yards during the Panthers narrow 32-29 loss.

Injuries befell Smart in Carolina and later with Oakland Raiders ending his career in 2006.

Now in 2019, smart had settled in South Carolina holding jobs a school guidance counselor and football coach over the past decade, but his family became concerned when no one had seen or been able to  communicate with him since the middle of last week. So, on Tuesday the family alerted authorities to help find Smart fearing for his safety.

About six hours after the initial reports went out about “He Hate Me” being missing, authorities located in Lancaster County, which is about 20 minutes south of Charlotte just across the South Carolina border, found him.

It’s a happy ending for a guy that’s certainly latched on to a great marketing gimmick and etched out a place, even temporarily, in our football consciousness earlier this century

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Former Gators kicker Pineiro is Chicago hero- for now

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Every week in the NFL there are heroes in the clutch for different franchises. However, in a market like Chicago with the rabid, massive following like the Chicago Bears, when you do something dramatic to help them win everything is taken up to a new level.

That’s something that new kicker, and former Florida Gator Eddy Pineiro, is experiencing after his dramatic game-winning 53 yard field goal with no time left in Denver Sunday gave the Bears a 16-14 win.

First, it looked as though the Bears had blown the game when they allowed Denver’s Joe Flacco to lead a last-minute scoring drive that resulted in a dramatic touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders with :31 seconds left. And, then, the two hooked up on the go ahead two-point conversion to Sanders for 14 – 13 lead.

But undaunted, the Bears, led by quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, got into scoring position on a 25-yard completion to the Broncos 25 to Allen Robinson with just :01 remaining.

That’s when Pineiro, who had kicked two lengthy field goals earlier in the game, stepped on the Mile High turf and calmly, with 80,000 Bronco fans going berserk, booted home a line drive game-winner to make the Bears 1 – 1.

As we wrote earlier this month, Pineiro, a second year player, had won the Bears kicking job coming out of preseason. Pineiro won the spot over Elliott Fry by hitting a 58-yard field goal against the Colts, followed by another 3-for-3 against the Titans in August.

And Gators fans will remember the Miami native having a good college career at Florida. He made 17/18 FG’s during the Gators miserable 2017 season. And combined with his 21/25 the year before, he totaled an 88% field goal career mark.

Pineiro declared for the 2018 NFL Draft after only two seasons with the Gators, but went undrafted. He signed as a free agent with the Oakland Raiders in May of 2018, however, he was placed on injured reserve last September. Earlier this summer, he was traded to the Chicago Bears in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Finally, let’s keep in perspective that we are not talking Chicago icon status like: Michael Jordan, Walter Payton, Ernie Banks and Patrick Kane have.

Still, it was a large moment early in his tenuous Bears kicking career and Pineiro is celebrating, like he should.

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Many state fans still without ACC Network

ESPN and the Atlantic Coast Conference launched the 24-hour ACC television network in the middle of last month. But for all of the fanfare and build up, there are still hundreds of thousands of football fans in the state of Florida who are without the channel headed into the first weekend of September.

And now, that’s about to be problematic with a scheduled Saturday triple-header of games that will involve FSU, the Miami Hurricanes and the USF Bull’s all being televised, exclusively on the channel.

Now, the ACC and ESPN announced Thursday night a deal with Cox Communications, which serves a good portion of the state and will obviously make their customers happy:

The ACC, led by Commissioner John Swofford (above),  also previously announced a deal with Spectrum Communications to carry the ACC Network. That is a significant amount of coverage in Florida.

And, the ACCN is also available through satellite services like DirecTV and Dish. Plus, it’s available on streaming services like Hulu, Sling and YouTube TV for individual fees.

However, while the ACC and ESPN continue to update new deals being done with providers, customers with Comcast / Xfinity, Frontier Communications and AT&T U-verse are still waiting for the channel. And, those outlets represent hundreds of thousands of college football fans in the combined markets of Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and Tallahassee.

Fans in those markets with those providers already missed last Thursday night’s opener with #1 Clemson and Georgia Tech, were without last Saturday’s ACCN games, and more importantly, possibly won’t to see their favorite school on the triple header Saturday.

That starts with USF at Georgia Tech at 2 p.m., followed by Florida State hosting Louisiana-Monroe and capped Saturday night by Miami’s opening conference game at North Carolina.

All to be shown exclusively, on the ACCN.

The crux of the problem is the amount of money that ESPN is looking to recoup from each individual customer of the provider. It is the same model that they have followed previously with the SEC Network and with their biggest channels like ESPN and ESPN2.

ESPN and the SEC had much more leverage five years ago at the launch of that television network with a much more rabid following. The SEC Network was picked up by every major provider in the state of Florida before games were ever played in the 2014 season.

Again, ESPN and the conference are negotiating non-stop and may very well get deals with the above major providers that are still holding out. But, it’s entirely possible that when the Noles, the Canes and the Bulls hit the field Saturday many of their fans in the state will not be able to see it, on TV, an app, nothing.

You’ve been warned.

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