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- American football player
Call Steve Smith the toughest man on the football field.
He always was the battering fullback — no position absorbing more violent hits. He was the team captain. A leader of Penn State's last national championship team.
Tougher than nine NFL years blocking and hitting and still scoring touchdowns?
No one lived their life tougher, too.
Smith battled ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, for nearly 20 years.
He died quietly, peacefully Saturday in his longtime home town of Richardson, Texas — about an hour before his Nittany Lions played Rutgers on Senior Day.
He was 57.
Though Smith could not walk or talk or even hold his wife's hand in more than a decade, he could communicate through his glances, expressions and words on a computer screen controlled with his eyes.
He decided to live with machines to help him breathe and eat because he wanted to fight for a cure — and through the love for his former NFL cheerleader wife, Chie, their son and daughter and new grandson.
He lived in recent years as he played. His fight, more than anything, inspired his former teammates and close friends at Penn State and in the NFL, primarily with the Raiders, who then played in Los Angeles.
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As a player, Smith blocked for star runners such as Blair Thomas, Marcus Allen and Bo Jackson, perhaps the greatest two-sport athlete ever. They regularly visited and stayed in touch with Smith over the years, say they are forever indebted to him.
“He’s the toughest fullback I’ve ever seen.”
Rest in peace to the great Steve Smith 🖤 pic.twitter.com/giM4IjGCTK
— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) November 21, 2021
"He laid his body on the line for me hundreds of times," Jackson told the York Daily Record in December of 2019. "I'm just glad God let him stay around as long as he has so I can go see him. ... I want to do my part to make sure he's not forgotten."
Smith's best NFL season, perhaps, was in 1989 when he ran for a career-best 471 yards and caught 19 passes and still paved the way for other's glory.
He scored four touchdowns with nearly 500 all-purpose yards for Penn State's title-winning 1986 team.
"He was always about making sure everybody else was fine," said Troy Cromwell, a former Penn State receiver and one of Smith's best friends from college. "He's still here because he wanted to see his kids grow up and go to college, to see them get married.
"He's trying everything he can because he does it for everybody else. He's always been there for everyone else.
"He's still Superman in our eyes ..."
Frank Bodani covers Penn State football for the York Daily Record and USA Today Network. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @YDRPennState.
This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: Penn State football: Former Lion Steve Smith dies after battling ALS