On May 3, 1994, Rod Smith entered the National Football League as a college free agent from Division II Missouri Southern University. He spent his rookie season on the practice squad before cracking the active roster in 1995. Twelve years later, he retired as the Denver Broncos franchise record holder for career receptions (849), receiving yards (11,389), touchdown catches (68) and overall touchdowns (71). He was the league’s all-time leader among undrafted players in every major career receiving category and, in overall league annals, ranked 12th in career receptions, 19th in career receiving yards and tied for 31st in career receiving touchdowns.
Smith also waved goodbye as the team’s all-time postseason leader in catches (49), receiving yards (860), and touchdowns (6). He finished his career on a 124-game streak with at least one catch and nine consecutive seasons with 70-or-more catches, which tied for the second-longest streak in league history.
In 2006, the Arkansas-born record setter became the 15th player in NFL history to log 800 career receptions and the first undrafted player to accomplish that feat. During the Broncos’ Monday Night Football game against Kansas City in 2005, he became one of only 25 players to surpass 10,000 receiving yards. He also registered his team-best eighth 1,000-yard receiving season in 2005 with a team-high 1,105 receiving yards on 85 catches, which placed fourth in the AFC and helped earn him a Pro Bowl spot.
Smith, who tops the team’s all-time yards from scrimmage list with 11,737, recorded more combined yards than any player in Broncos history with 12,488 and owns a franchise-best mark of 31 100-yard receiving games — including a team-record eight in 2000.
Six times in team history, two Broncos players have each logged 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. Smith was part of five of those occasions, including the most recent occurrence in 2004 when he and Ashley Lelie each reached that milestone. Smith had 1,144 yards and Lelie contributed 1,084.
When he retired in 2007, Smith held five of the Top-10 single-season reception totals in Broncos history, including a team-record 113 catches in 2001 during a year in which he established an NFL record with 67 catches through the first eight games of the season. He also owns five of the Top-10 single-season receiving yardage totals in Denver ledgers, including a clubrecord 1,602 in 2000. He posted the second-highest single-game receiving total in Broncos history with 208 yards vs. Atlanta on Oct. 31, 2004 and, with that performance, became the first Bronco to tally at least 100 yards receiving in each half of a game.
Smith left Missouri Southern with league records for career receiving yards and touchdowns, a school reception record (153) and multiple First Team All-America honors. Catching 63 senior-year passes for 986 yards (15.7 avg.) and 13 touchdowns, he was a finalist for the Harlon Hill Award given annually to the top Division II football player. Smith was named Missouri Southern’s Outstanding Graduate in 1994 after completing his collegiate studies with three degrees (economics and finance; general business; marketing and management). He was inducted into the college’s Athletics Hall of Fame in October, 2003 and the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
Away from the field, Smith is an All-Pro, too. He’s been supporting an orphanage in Mexico City since 1994 and has served as spokesman for the annual Denver Broncos Community Blood Drive since its inception in 2000.
The 38-year-old Cherry Hills Village resident has two sons, Devin and Roderick, Jr., and a daughter, Vanessa.
It’s hard to get in the NFL, but the thing they have to realize is (that) it’s harder to stay.