AMONG THE FIRST items on the still-active personal website of former Saints defensive lineman Will Smith is a line that he "wants to be an FBI agent following his playing career."
Smith, who was reportedly set to become a coaching intern for his old team this year, won't get the chance to do either. Last Saturday night in New Orleans, Smith was killed after an incident that police say began when Cardell Hayes's Hummer H2 hit the back of the Mercedes-Benz SUV that Smith, 34, was driving with his wife, Racquel, in the passenger seat. The SUV then crashed into the car in front of him, and there was an argument that ended with Hayes's taking out a handgun and shooting Smith in the back and torso and Smith's wife twice in the leg. (As of Monday she was in stable condition.) Police have charged Hayes, 28, with second-degree murder; his former lawyer, John Fuller, is leaving the case to become a judge but before doing so said, "My client was not the aggressor."
Smith's death was the latest and most high-profile example of gun violence and a rising murder rate in New Orleans. Of the 164 people murdered in the city in 2015 (up from 150 in '14), "91% were killed by gunfire," according to The Times-Picayune. "It's so dangerous," Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu, a New Orleans native, said on Fox Sports Radio. "I fly in, and I fly out of town, that's how scared I am."
Speaking about New Orleans's problem with gun violence to USA Today, Saints coach Sean Payton said, "It's like the Wild Wild West here," and quarterback Drew Brees, a teammate of Smith's for eight years, told Peter King of TheMMQB.com, "We become desensitized to it. And so many people die, but we pay attention when it's Will Smith. That forces so many people to deal with the reality of a terrible thing, the gun violence in the city."
To Smith's former teammates, he was more than a Pro Bowler in 2006 or the sack leader on the Super Bowl--winning team in '09 or a member of the club's Hall of Fame, elected this off-season after finishing with 67½ sacks in nine seasons. "He really was the cornerstone of our team," Brees told King.
He was also a pillar of the community. Smith's foundation, Where There's A Will There's A Way, helped at-risk children, and he was a frequent part of the team's charitable efforts.
Before coming to New Orleans as the 18th pick in the 2004 draft, Smith had been a star at Ohio State where he graduated with a degree in criminology. Perhaps in death he will have the sort of impact at ending senseless violence that he hoped to have in life.
"He really was the cornerstone of our team," said Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
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