Every NFL team has had its share of first-round draft busts. The Cincinnati Bengals can on their own illustrate the many ways first-rounders can fail -- by injury (Ki-Jana Carter), by inability (Akili Smith), by attitude (Dan Wilkinson).
But then there are some failures that are so spectacular, they live in infamy. It's one thing not to crack a starting line-up. It's entirely another to be Sammie Smith.
This morning's Miami Herald provided a nasty blast from the past for Miami Dolfans. First-round draft pick Ronnie Brown, a halfback from Auburn, finally signed a deal yesterday, but Herald reporter David J. Neal detailed that Brown's blissful... um... optimism about the pressure of being the #2 overall pick in the draft might be a little unrealistic, given the Dolphins' history with the running back position.
''For the most part, there is not any added pressure being drafted No. 2 [overall],'' he said.
Yeah. Look kid, do you know how many Dolphins have fumbled on the goal line in the 30 years since Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick took their sure hands to the WFL? Only one suffered through a personalized chant from fans that led to him welcoming a trade.
That's Sammie Smith, who was in Brown's position 16 years ago. Chosen ninth overall in 1989 after the last truly disastrous Dolphins season before 2004. Unsigned until after the first regular-season game. Fumbled on the goal line Oct. 13 and 20, 1991. Traded May 26, 1992. Never the same as an NFL player.
OK, maybe Smith didn't have the mentality to withstand ''Sammie Sucks!'' The point is, Brown doesn't realize that for a No. 2 overall pick, a $20 million signing bonus and a hefty salary, the standard isn't just be the best you can be. Cut that by three words, and you've got a better idea.
Thanks for reminding us about f***ing Sammie Smith. We had almost gotten over him. Jerk.
Sammie was what scouts called a prototype back, with the size and strength of a tight end and the speed of a track star. The problem was his body; because of his build, he constantly took mean hits and suffered tweaky injuries. And then, there were the two fumbles in eight days.
Sammie had a rep for being fumble prone, but these were the type of disastrous gaffes from which a career can never recover, like making Waterworld and The Postman back-to-back.
It began in a road game against playoff power Kansas City, when Sammie fumbled on an early dive play into the end zone. After KC returned that ball 99 yards for a touchdown, the game was pretty much over in the first quater.
If that was Sammie plunging a knife into his own lung, then the next game was pretty much self-decapitation. With Miami trailing playoff power Houston by just four points, Dan Marino drove the Dolphins all the way down to the goal line with just seconds remaining in the game. And once again, Sammie fumbled on the goal line, Houston recovered, and the game was over.
The fans immediately turned on Sammie, chanting "Sammie sucks! Sammie sucks!" The twice-failed tailback had to be escorted by police from his own home stadium. He would be traded a few months later to Denver for their disgruntled halfback Bobby Humphrey in a lose-lose deal that would benefit exactly nobody.
But Sammie didn't just fade away like most former NFLers. No, he didn't buy real estate or a carwash or a health club. Sammie went to work, and three years after being released by Denver, he was convicted for being a mid-level coke and crack distributor in central Florida.
Ronnie Brown, if Sammie Smith is your standard, you're gonna be okay.
(Big ups to Sports Attic for the pic of Sammie covering up the ball for the only time in his career.)