The NFL Network didn’t have to go here with its acclaimed A Football Life series. Examining the life of a gay football player isn’t what you would necessarily expect from a generally conservative league.
Yet few NFL players had a more interesting and complicated life than Jerry Smith. This series would have been incomplete without him.
The latest installment (tonight, 9 p.m. ET) is on the star Washington tight end, who kept his homosexuality a secret until he was diagnosed with AIDs in the early 80s.
It is well-told story, shining a light on what it was like to be a gay athlete in the 60s and 70s. Highly recommended.
Here is the link to the preview. And more from NFL Network.
From 1965-77, Jerry Smith was a two-time Pro Bowl tight end for the Washington Redskins. At the time he retired, Smith held the record for the most touchdown receptions by a tight end in NFL history. Yet off the field, Smith lived with a personal secret he did not publicly share with his teammates.
NFL Network’s two-time Emmy-nominated series A Football Life continues Tuesday, January 21 at 9:00 PM ET with Jerry Smith: A Football Life. The one-hour documentary chronicles the life of Smith, detailing his career with the Redskins, his life as a gay athlete and his death from AIDS.
The following topics are discussed in Jerry Smith: A Football Life:
- Smith’s successful playing career with the Washington Redskins, in which he retired with the record for the most career touchdowns by a tight end in NFL history
- His relationship with teammate Dave Kopay during their time with the Redskins and how it later became strained
- Comments from Redskins teammates on if they were aware of Smith’s sexual preference
- Journalist Lynn Rosellini’s series in the Washington Star in which Smith anonymously detailed the life of a gay professional athlete
- His death from AIDS
Emmy-nominated actor from CBS’ The Good Wife, Josh Charles, narrates.
Jerry Smith: A Football Life includes interviews with the following people:
Bonnie Smith-Gilchrist – Jerry’s sister
Ed Smith – Jerry’s brother
Sonny Jurgensen – Hall of Fame Redskins quarterback
Bobby Mitchell – Hall of Fame Redskins wide receiver/running back
Charley Taylor – Hall of Fame Redskins wide receiver; Jerry’s teammate at Arizona State
Chris Hanburger – Hall of Fame Redskins linebacker
Brig Owens – Redskins cornerback; Jerry’s roommate
Dave Kopay – Redskins running back
Larry Brown – Redskins running back
Billy Kilmer – Redskins quarterback
Calvin Hill – Redskins running back
Jean Fugett – Redskins tight end
Bruce Allen – George Allen’s son; current Redskins general manager
Mark Murphy – Redskins safety; current Packers President and CEO
George Solomon – Washington Post
Leonard Shapiro – Washington Post
Lynn Rosellini – Washington Star
David Mixner – Author; friend of Jerry’s; Gay Rights activist
David Maraniss – Vince Lombardi biographer
Provided below are some select quotes from Jerry Smith: A Football Life:
– “When you needed a play to be made, you knew you could throw the ball to him and you knew some way, somehow he was going to catch the thing.” – Sonny Jurgensen
– “This guy was a tremendous football player. Tough as nails, great hands – just so dependable.” – Bobby Mitchell
– “This was really good. At least I was sharing something of myself with someone who is close and understood all that I had been through.” – Dave Kopay on his relationship with teammate Jerry Smith
– “He was living in real fear and real scared; really alone and terrified that he was going to lose everything.” – David Mixner
– “There was that fear because you don’t want somebody to take away something that you love doing and you love it so much.” – Brig Owens
– “I think there was a suspicion but it was not like we were trying to ‘out’ him. It was a different era [in regards to the media].” – Leonard Shapiro
– “One of the things I learned is that a person’s sexual preference has nothing to do with their heart.” – Calvin Hill
Following the episode, Jenn Brown hosts A Football Life: Backstory at 10:00 PM ET, a 30-minute show that provides a deeper look into the lives and story of each subject, features interviews with relevant individuals, and includes material that did not make the final edition of the episode. This week, Redskins teammates Brig Owens and Calvin Hill, and Smith’s friend David Mixner join the show.