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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