Gerald "Jerry" Sanford Smith (July 19, 1943 – October 15, 1986) was a professional American football player, playing tight end for the National Football League Washington Redskins from 1965–1977.

Pro football career

Playing for Otto Graham and George Allen's Redskins, Smith had a stellar career. He played in the 1973 Super Bowl VII, and Sports Illustrated called him "an outstanding receiver among tight ends, with the ability to break open for a long gain." In his career Smith caught 421 passes, including 60 touchdowns, a record for Tight Ends at the time. He was named All-Pro twice and held several NFL records that stood for years. Despite his peerless accomplishments and decades standing records he has been denied membership in the NFL Hall of Fame.


Smith died of AIDS on October 15, 1986. He was the first former professional athlete to die of the disease. Although he acknowledged that he had AIDS, he never publicly acknowledged his homosexual activities. Smith's sexuality was confirmed after his death by a former teammate, pro NFL football player David Kopay, who had come out of the closet years earlier.


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