Rod Smart's story for me starts, like most people, with the XFL.
I was OBSESSED with the XFL.
I guess it makes sense...at the time I was 14-15, still watched a lot of WWF, was beginning to love football, and then the XFL came around. I tried to watch as many games as I could, and I always thought "He Hate Me" was neat, but I was actually a Chicago Enforcers fan truth be told. They had a few former NFL players in John Avery, LeShon Johnson, Roell Preston (the only former Pro Bowler to have played in the XFL), and Corey Ivy, and since I recognized the names I became a big fan of the team even if they weren't that great. They made the playoffs and lost in the semis, and that was the end of that for my Rage fandom and the XFL.
Now a second thing happening at this time was the rise of the Houston Texans, who had their initial expansion draft and regular draft in 2002. While not tied directly to the XFL, I think it does help explain some of my reasoning for collecting Smart. When the Expansion draft happened, me and my 9 year old brother both were so pumped about it and kept wondering which players teams would protect and which players the Texans would snap up. For most people it was pretty lame stuff - Tony Boselli's bloated contract, Seth Payne's bloated contract, etc., but for us it was journeymen or relative journeymen getting their shot at joining a new team and making an impact. I was similarly excited when the new Browns came about, as well as when the (Devil) Rays and Diamondbacks held their 2001 Expansion Draft. 2002 Madden even had a mode for the Game Cube where you could start a season with the Texans and have your own Expansion Draft where you picked from the rubble of other teams - I bought the game later on for PS2 hoping it'd be as awesome but they actually didn't have the feature for PS2 which was so unfortunate. But regardless, I'm a big fan of guys who haven't gotten a chance, or guys who might be on their last chance, and the Expansion Draft is a great example of that.
Well coming back around, so was the XFL. And when it folded, all these guys that I had known and loved for a few games were all without jobs, and a lot were hoping for NFL positions if possible. Some guys found them, other guys didn't, and I remember being really focused on a few guys (Avery in particular) to see if/where they would catch on. It was only then that I really started to follow Rod Smart, who of course did catch on, first with the Eagles and later with the Panthers and Raiders. His Eagles stint was all about special teams tackles, his Panthers stint was the most successful of his career and resulted in a Super Bowl appearance, and his Raiders stint was a quick offseason roster spot at the end of a few injury plagued years. It was only 5-6 years all told, but it stands as the longest NFL career of a post XFL player, which is a fitting title for the guy that most remember as the face (or nameplate?) of the XFL.
He certainly reminds me of those great days and of a guy who finally got his chance, so I decided I wanted to collect him. And you can imagine my excitement when I went on Ebay and found that one of his rarest cards, an "Extreme LTD" Pacific card /24, could be had for just a few bucks. I snatched that one up quick, and it looks like this:
Here's the back: