Jackie Smith was one of the early great pass catching tight ends.
The tight end position in the 60’s and 70’s was not the same as it is today. They certainly caught passes and were capable receivers, but they were built to block first, catch passes second. There were guys who were very good at both, however, and Smith definitely fell into that category.
Though he wasn’t drafted until the 10th round in 1963, Smith earned a role in the offense quickly, and it didn’t take long for him to be a big part of the offense. From his second season, in 1964, through 1970, when he made his last Pro Bowl appearance, he averaged 45 receptions for 765 yards and four touchdowns. His best season was in 1967 when he recorded 56 catches for 1,205 yards and nine scores. Injuries slowed him down in the latter part of his career, but for 15 seasons he was a major contributor to the Cardinals.
Smith’s play helped to evolve the tight end position in the NFL. The five-time Pro Bowler was a legitimate weapon for the offense, something not always true at that spot. This helped him eventually be honored by induction into the Hall of Fame. He’s mostly remembered for one negative play, in the one year he spent playing for a different team, but he was one of the greatest tight ends of his era.