Former Denver Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith may have been born in Texarkana, Ark., but it's pretty clear that his heart belongs to Joplin, Mo., where he went to college at Missouri Southern State. Smith was a small-school standout who had to fight for a roster spot in the NFL and finished his estimable pro career as the only undrafted receiver in NFL history to catch more than 10,000 yards. Smith has the most catches (849), receiving yards (11,389) and touchdown catches (68) of any undrafted player ever, and he was one of John Elway's two main targets in the Broncos' Super Bowl years of 1997 and 1998 (Ed McCaffrey was the other).
However, those accomplishments are not primarily on his mind right now. Right now, Rod Smith is dealing with the fact that his college town of Joplin was basically wiped off the map when it was hit with an enormous tornado last Sunday, the deadliest twister in America in at least the last 60 years. Houses were destroyed, the city's hospital is now a mere shell, and the hospital's parking lot is empty because all the cars that were in that lot were thrown into the air like so many empty beer cans by winds that reached 200 mph. The death toll in Joplin has reached 125, and rebuilding must seem inconceivable to those who live in the city — one must wonder where to even begin.
Smith went on the NFL Network's "Total Access" show on Tuesday to talk about how he's coping with a city that's still very much a part of his life, and how we all can help.
"It's hard, because you don't know where everybody is," Smith said. "I think there are about 1,500 people that are still missing right now, and we're doing a lot of praying. I just got off the phone with the head basketball coach over at Missouri Southern [the campus is currently being used as a Red Cross facility], and he told me that they just found seven people in the rubble of the old Home Depot … and they were all alive. So, prayers worked."
In that case, prayers did, but there's still so much left to do. Smith said that he was preparing to load up a couple of 18-wheel trucks and get them to Joplin from Denver with the kinds of things that would help people in emergency situations, but he was told that there's no place to put anything even if you get it in there — there just isn't the infrastructure right now. So, Smith is asking that the relief efforts in place receive the assistance.
If you would like to help, you can text "REDCROSS" to 90999 to make a $10 donation to the Red Cross' relief efforts, or go to http://www.redcross.org/ for more information.