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Where the 15 Minutes of Fame Never End
It’s request Thursday on Obscure Athletes, and the first suggestion on Our Page On Facebook was for Otis Smith. Let’s
face it, an Otis Smith Obscure Spotlight was inevitable, and I’m a man of the people. I’m not some malevolent, unreasonable lord and master of Obscure Athletes. What I’m trying to say is, we’re listening. Ya know?
Otis Smith is the consummate NFL underdog. In college, he suffered a separated shoulder but came back to be a two-year starter as an upperclassman. Undrafted out of Missouri, Smith signed on with the Eagles in training camp and made the team’s roster. In his four-year tenure with Philadelphia, he started only four games but appeared in all but one, mostly as a fifth defensive back. After his career in Philadelphia was over, Smith moved to greener pastures–namely, a Jets uniform, where he would be able to be a regular starter for the first time in his career.
Smith is known as one of the numerous “AFC East Guys” who seem to hop between AFC East teams throughout their career. He played 1995 for the Jets, but was waived by New York in late September of the following season, when he signed on with the Patriots. He went on to start nine games for New England, and was on the roster for their appearance in Super Bowl XXXI. That year, in the AFC Championship game against the Jaguars, Smith returned a fumble 47 yards for a touchdown, sealing the Jags’ fate.
The 1997 offseason saw Otis Smith on the move again, this time back to New York to play for the same Jets team that cut him less than a year before. The ’97 season was Smith’s best. He intercepted six passes, returning three for touchdowns, and forced a fumble. Otis Smith would stick around with the Jets until after his injury-riddled ’99 campaign, when once again, he was waived by the Jets and signed by the Pats.
Smith started for three more full seasons in New England, and he was key in Super Bowl XXXVI against St. Louis, recording an interception. Oft-forgotten about that game was the Otis Smith fumble return for a touchdown that was taken off the board due to a Willie McGinnest holding call. After the ’02 season Smith would have only one NFL season left in him, this time in Detroit, where he started thirteen games.
Smith is now a defensive assistant for the Chiefs. I’ll always remember Smith for how much McGinnest fucked up his moment of fame in the Super Bowl. But at least Otis Smith’s fifteen minutes of fame have Obscure Athletes to make sure they never end.
Wanna see your favorite obscure athlete featured in the Obscure Spotlight? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org
When I was a kid the first football video game I had was NFL Quarterback Club ’96 for the Super Nintendo. Steve Young was on the
cover and the 49ers were just considerably better than every other team in the game. Young was the quarterback of the Niners, and the receivers? Jerry Rice, and Jeral Jamal Stokes. Young to Stokes all day. It’s no wonder San Fran was so great, Terrell Owens was the third wide receiver!
The 49ers picked JJ Stokes with the tenth overall pick in the 1995 NFL Draft out of UCLA, and he had a successful rookie season with San Fransisco, catching 38 passes for 517 yards and 4 touchdowns in twelve games. After an injury-plagued 1996 campaign in which Stokes played just six games, Stokes rebounded well in 1997, catching 58 balls and racking up 733 receiving yards. Stokes never would return to his Steve- Young-era form after the team brought in Jeff Garcia to run the offense. Also, remember when Bill Romanowski spit in his face?
The 49ers released the 31-year-old Stokes during the ’03 offseason, and he was subsequently brought in by the Jaguars. Midway through the season, however, AFC North doormats the Cleveland Browns released wide receiver Kevin Johnson, and Johnson was claimed on waivers by the Jaguars. They then waived Stokes, who was almost immediately signed by the Patriots. In two games for New England during the 2003 season, Stokes caught two passes for 38 yards, including his first reception for New England– a 31-yard reception on a key third-quarter third and 8
against the Texans.
Stokes was released by New England after appearing in just two games, and he never would suit up for an NFL team again. But for two games in 2003, JJ Stokes was my favorite Patriot, and to this day remains one of my all-time favorite wide receivers. Young to Stokes yo!
Bring yourself back to a time when the New England Patriots were a dynasty in progress– a time when guys like Bruschi, Vrabel, Law, and Harrison were the stallworts of an intimidating defense that helped bring three Super Bowls to Foxboro, MA, in four seasons. The truth is, just as important as those guys, were the role players on those defenses– Randall Gay, Earthwind Moreland, and of course, the oft-forgotten Hank Poteat.
Hank Poteat played his college football at Pitt, and was drafted by his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round in 2000, and for two seasons returned punts and kicks for the Steelers. He experienced limited success in that role with Pittsburg, scoring his only NFL touchdown, but didn’t make his first NFL start until he landed in New England before game 15 of the 04-05 season. In his debut for the Pats, against the Brooks Bollinger-led Jets, he recorded a sack and a forced fumble, stripping the aforementioned Bollinger on the same play. He would get a ring as a Patriot that season, and would go on to split time between the Patriots and Jets the following year.
Poteat’s career ended in Cleveland, playing for then-head coach Eric Mangini, for whom he’d played in New England and New York when Mangini was an assistant. Hank Poteat started 20 games total in his NFL career, recording a total of 197 tackles, 3 sacks, and 4 picks. He also has a bitchin Website which looks even more in need of updating than Obscure Athletes. Love it.