Longtime Jets scout Gary Smith has died at the age of 72. Smith, who was the Green & White's representative to the National Football Scouting (NFS) Service from 1998-2011, also held consulting roles and scouting assignments for the club and the NFL Scouting Combine following his retirement.
"Gary was a hard-working scout who loved his job and loved the Jets," said Terry Bradway, who served as Jets GM from 2001-05. "He had a really good background, a former player and coach who carried his Midwestern values and was very fun to be around."
In his role with the Jets, Smith would head out in the spring before the upcoming draft to collect information on the players who would be eligible for the following year's draft. Then in May, he would provide those reports so the team could quickly turn the page.
"Typically, the NFS/Combine scout was a young scout who did it for a couple of years and then would move on to become an area scout as another young person would step into that role," Bradway said. "Gary loved that position, he loved being the NFS scout of the Jets. He took great pride in his work and his work would go to the other 18 or 19 teams who participated in the National Football Scouting system."
Prior to joining the Jets, Smith spent seven seasons with the Chicago Bears as their BLESTO scout from 1991-98. He once estimated that he spent 300 days a year on the road for the two decades he was in the NFL.
"On a typical day, you're up at 6 and get to bed at midnight or 1 in the morning. You get up, go to the school, meet with the strength coach, the trainer, the position coach and maybe the head coach if you're lucky," Smith said in a 2011 article published in The State Journal-Register. "You watch tape for five or six hours. You go and watch practice, go back to the hotel and get room service. You open up your computer and start doing reports on guys. That's the routine."
Before working with the Bears, Smith served as the defensive line coach, director of football operations and the on-campus recruiting coordinator at Indiana University. He joined the Hoosiers after having served as the head coach and athletic director at Crete-Monee HS in Illinois. Smith also coached at Virden HS, Lyons Township HS and Reavis HS in Illinois, helping the latter as a defensive assistant during a run of three straight state championships (1980-82).
A Springfield, IL native, Smith played football and graduated from Southern Illinois with a bachelor's of science in technical and industrial engineering and secondary education in 1969 and earned his master's in educational and administration services from Northern Illinois. Before coaching at the College of DuPage and serving as a graduate assistant at Southern Illinois, Smith was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals' taxi squad in 1970 and 1971 as a cornerback and special teams player.
The site Ourlads.com has Smith listed as part of its "NFL Scout Hall of Fame".
"I think to myself, 'You're not special. Big deal. You're in the NFL. A lot of people are," Smith told Dave Kane in 2011. "It's a job like everyone else's.' People look at you and say, 'Oh, that must be fun!' But (scouts) don't stand in front of a camera. We're not in the entertainment business."