Will Smith: Former Saints linebacker Scott Shanle writes touching tribute


Will Smith, the New Orleans Saints great whose life was taken by another man late Saturday night, was reflected on by former teammate Scott Shanle.

By now, we’ve all heard about the tragic loss of former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith, who was gunned down and murdered late Saturday night in an apparent act of road rage after a minor traffic collision.

While the story may still be developing as new details continue to emerge, we’ll leave it there.  A man’s life was taken, and his wife was also shot in a disgusting, cowardly act of violence, something that plagues New Orleans and other cities on a daily basis.  Will Smith was a leader both on and off the field, a community guy, a Super Bowl champion, and most importantly, a loving husband and father — he did not deserve to die.

Family, friends, fans, former coaches and teammates, and countless others are all mourning the loss of one of the greatest defensive ends to ever wear a Saints jersey.  One of Will Smith’s former teammates in New Orleans, Scott Shanle, reflected on his time with Smith in a touching letter he shared on Twitter Sunday night.

“Writing is supposed to be therapeutic,” Shanle said. “Finding out at midnight that a man who was like family was murdered will have you searching for any therapy imaginable. Today was a long day after a sleepless night of worry and sadness. To hear Will Smith was gunned down and no longer with us is unimaginable. It shouldn’t take a tragedy to make us wish we would have said certain things while we had the chance. Even though we texted pretty frequently, my regret is not telling Will I appreciated him and loved him. I tried to show it bet never said it directly, so here it goes….

“Will, I loved the person you were off the field in our talks and appreciated the selfless teammate you were on the field. Many people judge double-digit sacks as the measuring stick for defensive ends. What those people don’t know is you put those numbers on the back burner and played the run just as well as the pass for the betterment of our defense. I promise you it didn’t go unnoticed and I appreciate you for it. I loved how low-key you were and when you said something we listened, because we knew it came from the heart. You were our captain, our rock, and anchor during our run and I appreciate all the little things you did to help us succeed.

“Will, as I reflect on our 7 years together, only a handful of moments involve actually playing football. Coach Payton put a plan in place and it was a place for guys like us to thrive. We won a lot of big games with our formula of being tough, selfless, smart, and that was fulfilling. I remember from the moment I got off the plane after the trade from the Dallas Cowboys you welcomed me with open arms right there at training camp in the locker room at Milsaps College. I noticed and I appreciate it. Our friendship would grow over the next seven years. We lived in the same subdivision. We walked our kids around to the same neighbors on Halloween to trick or treat and followed each other to and from work almost daily.

“We shared an aisle in front of the plane on every road game. I loved our banter about college football traveling to the away games and our discussions about our own game on the way back home. I appreciated when you would grab me an extra Popeyes apple pie from the front of the plane. We would always laugh about how much we loved those apple pies! It was always funny, but we looked out for one another and made sure nobody took them all before we got one for one another! I loved our time together off the field in the mornings in the locker room. You grabbed your morning cup of coffee (straw in the mouth) and we plopped down with our teammates on the couch, watched TV, and just BS’d until the defensive meeting started.

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“I loved near the end of our careers we did our “old man” weight room workout to save our joints. Whether it was riding the bike and watching ESPN or camping out and having some Gatorade, we always had a debate to settle LOL. Different political views usually the topic of conversation or American history, we had some fun talks and I appreciate all of them. I loved how we stayed in the hotel meal room well after snack the night before games and all sat around the table and just talked. I loved and appreciated how stayed in touch post-career with Vilma, McCray, Herring, etc. thru mass text and ribbed one another about our college teams and conferences. I could always envision that sly grin you would have as we took a shot at your Buckeyes. I was a small town Nebraska kid and you were a proud New Yorker and yet we found plenty to talk about and I loved that.

“Will Smith, you will be missed and you made that world a much better place. I am lucky for having the opportunity to have you in my life. The game of football gave us all many great things, but nothing better than the relationships we formed. I don’t have many regrets in the 10 years I played and the 7 years we played together, but what I did realize today is that life is fragile, and I need to tell all my teammates and coaches I love them and appreciate them. Your memory will be with us forever. I pray for your lovely wife and beautiful children that they can manage this tragedy and find peace. Thank you, Will Smith, for the man you were as a teammate, friend, father, husband, and son…..I love you and appreciate you.”