Legacy of Greatness: Remembering Will Smith on the One-Year Anniversary of His Death

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This week marks the one-year anniversary that news propagated the nation about the shocking murder of former New Orleans Saints defensive end, Will Smith. It has been an entire year since hundreds of fans, friends and teammates congregated at the Saints practice facility in the suburbs of New Orleans to attend the visitation. It was a simple memorial with no ceremony or speeches. Large video screens and photos encircled the silver casket where a bouquet of white orchids was arranged. The photos depicted Smith playing football and the videos showed clips of Smith’s life on and off the field. Parades of musicians and mourners gathered at the scene of the murder and placed a wooden post on the corner which read “rest in peace.”

Legacy of Greatness: Remembering Will Smith on the One-Year Anniversary of His Death

April 2016 – The Devastating News

Will Smith was an outstanding football player, a teammate, a father of three, a husband and a son. At 34 years old, he became a victim of road rage. He and his wife Raquel were rear-ended by a Hummer SUV shortly after leaving a restaurant in the Lower Garden District which was known to be a low-crime area relative to the rest of New Orleans. Smith exchanged words with the driver, who proceeded to shoot the former Saints player seven times in the back and once in the side. Smith’s wife was also shot twice in the legs and her wounded cry could be heard calling out “Where’s my husband.” Smith’s former teammate Pierre Thomas had dined with the couple and was also at the scene of the crime. The famed football player was pronounced dead at the scene and a nation went into mourning.

Smith’s Legacy Lives On

Smith’s legacy is celebrated both on and off the field. On the field, he is remembered as a merciless enforcer. Before his retirement in 2014, he was known as one of the top defensive ends in the NFL. Born in Queens and raised in Utica, NY, he attended Ohio State University where he won a national championship in 2002. He was the 18th pick of the 2004 NFL Draft and played his entire ten-season career for the New Orleans Saints.

Smith was a Pro Bowler in 2006. Three years later, he was the defensive captain on a Saints team that defeated the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV which won him a ring. He ranks fourth among the franchise’s all-time sack leaders and is considered one of the Saints’ greatest defensive players. He played in 139 games for the Saints and started in 120 of those. His record boasts 618 tackles, 67.5 sacks, 19 forced fumbles and seven recovered fumbles.

Off the field, Smith was a prominent member of the community and was involved in numerous charitable activities. He started the Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way Foundation which provides opportunities for women and youth.

Moving Forward

A year has passed since that ill-fated night which caused a nation to mourn. It was hoped that the needless killing of Smith would initiate conversation that would lead to positive change. Sadly, little has been done to deter further tragedies similar to Smith’s which could be so easily avoided. Joe McKnight, formerly a running back for the New York Jets, was also shot and killed outside the New Orleans city limits in a separate incident involving road rage. Since Smith’s death, 664 people have been shot and 199 murdered in New Orleans. The homicide rate in the Big Easy is substantially higher than the rest of the nation – approximately ten times higher than the national average and quadruple that of similar-sized cities. It is unfortunate that New Orleans tends to be over-looked relative to other areas of the United States.

We can only hope that on the one-year anniversary of mourning, Smith’s murder may yet raise awareness and that the nation will work together towards the prevention of tragedies like these. In the meantime, fans will remember Will Smith and all that he contributed to the game.

A letter written by Will Smith was read out at his memorial which read “I have no regrets. I want my kids to grow up to be whoever they want to be. I don’t want you to dictate your life based upon what society says is right… We all create our right and wrong.” A year later, a new sign has replaced the one that once read “Rest in Peace.” It now reads “Think that you might be wrong.”


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