Chris Smith, a defensive end who spent eight seasons in the NFL, has died at age of 31.
His cause of death has not been released at this time.
Smith graduated from West Rowan High School in 2010 and was a star defensive end on the team. He helped the West Rowan Falcons capture the 2009 3A State Championship and was recruited to play for the University of Arkansas following high school.
With the Razorbacks, Smith started games all four years in college and was selected second-team All-Southeastern Conference during his senior year in 2013.
Smith was then selected in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Smith stayed with the Jaguars for three seasons, appearing in 19 games and making 4.5 sacks.
In 2017, Smith signed with the Cincinnati Bengals and appeared in all 16 games, making three sacks.
Smith also spent time with the Cleveland Browns, Las Vegas Raiders, and Houston Texans from 2018 to 2021. He signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2020 but only appeared on the practice squad.
During his brief time with the Panthers, Smith spoke to WCNC Charlotte and reflected on returning to the area he grew up on. Smith somberly also spoke about his efforts to promote hazard light safety after his girlfriend and mother of his child, Petara Cordero, was killed after being struck by a car in September 2011.
Although Smith’s time in the NFL ended after the 2021 season, he wasn’t quite done with football. Smith signed with the Seattle Sea Dragons of the XFL for the 2023 season and appeared in five games on defense.
“Chris was a better person than he was player! The impact he had on those around him will be remembered forever,” West Rowan wrote on Twitter.