1.) Will Smith, DE, 2004 – 2012
Coming in at the 1st spot on this list is a New Orleans Saints legend, Will Smith. Will Smith was drafted by the Saints in 2004, with the 18th overall selection.
Will Smith, a defensive end out of Ohio State, helped to revolutionize the New Orleans Saints. A team looking to find a presence, an identity, found it with the leader that was Will Smith.
Physically Will Smith was a literal beast when he represented the Black and Gold. In his history with the team, Smith totaled, 67.5 sacks, 324 tackles, 20 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions in 139 games. Will Smith’s physicality led him not only major success with the Saints defensively, but also helped the Saints in winning the team’s first Super Bowl. As dominant as Will Smith was through his physicality, his impact through his wisdom and leadership will be forever remembered and recognized.
When it came to impactful leaders, look no further than DE Will Smith. Not only was Smith the Defensive Captain when he served with the Saints but was the voice for those who didn’t speak. Smith rallied various Saints athletes when the team needed it the most. If the Saints needed some sort of impactful play, if Smith wasn’t doing it himself he was prepping someone else to do it. All that can be said about Will Smith at this point is he was a game changer and a leader.
Will Smith helped not only change the Saints franchise for the better but helped revolutionize the team as the Saints made its glorious Super Bowl run. His impacts, through his physicality, mental toughness, and overall leadership are traits Smith will be forever remembered for.
What Will Smith Means To Me Personally:
For those of you who don’t know, Will Smith was born in Queens, New York but was raised by his grandmother, Nancy Smith, in Utica, New York.
Now my grandmother who lives in Little Falls, only miles away from Utica, New York followed Smith’s career very closely as he drew positive attention to himself growing up. I remember to this day my grandma calling my dad, telling him all about this local kid getting praise from just about everyone for his football skills.
Up here in Central New York, (where I live), it’s pretty rare to have a local kid make it big for his town, and it personally intrigued my family so we decided we would follow this kid, Will Smith’s career. My family followed his career through college (Ohio State), and up to the point where he was drafted by the Saints, which was the team, we’d ultimately become a fan of because of Smith. So I personally must give thanks to Will Smith, because he’s the reason to this day why my family loves the Saints.
Going Beyond Football:
Will Smith had a profound impact on the New Orleans Saints. Everything Smith accomplished will be forever recognized, and remembered. As great as Smith was with the Saints, what he did on his own was also very impactful.
Will Smith was known for several various charitable acts while he was alive. Here are a couple of his more notable acts.
Let’s first start off by saying, Will Smith has a non-profit organization called “When There’s A Will, There’s A Way”. This charity is founded by Will Smith and is focused on youth growth, and achievement. Smith was focused on primarily helping youth to succeed, whether it be through school or playing sports, Smith loved to see adolescents prosper. Smith held annual summer camps to not only help keep children off the streets but to see them succeed, with his guidance.
Another way Smith enjoyed giving back to various communities was through recognition. Every year there is an annual “Evening of All-Stars” banquet Smith started, to honor, and recognize local athletes in the Utica area, who have reached great heights in their communities. Although Smith is unfortunately not on this Earth, the local banquet is still continued in his name.
Even though Will Smith lived in NOLA he never forgot where he was raised. Whether it be down in Louisiana, or up in New York State, Will Smith was very prominent in giving back. Will Smith is a phenomenal athlete who deserved an endless amount of praise for his commendable acts both on and off the field.
Although his stats come short of Gerald Wayne Martin, in my opinion, Will Smith has had the greatest impact of any defensive end on this list. Not to mention Smith’ played a large role in allowing the Saints to reach, and win the Super Bowl. In my opinion, Smith’s Super Bowl contributions, mentality, leadership, and physical aspects put him number one on this list no doubt.