Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — Justin Smith is once again a Missouri Tiger.
Recently retired after 14 years in the NFL, the Jefferson City High School legend has joined Missouri’s football team as a part-time weight room assistant, the team announced Thursday.
“We’re going try to (have him) help us in the weight room, do some work there with our players,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “So he’s excited about doing that. Great career in the NFL. Great Missouri Tiger. Loves being here, and so really I think he’ll be able to help us out and do some good things for us.”
In 1997, Smith racked up 124 tackles and 15 sacks in his senior season with Jefferson City, which ended with the Jays’ 10th state title. He earned all-state honors twice at Jefferson City.
At Missouri, Smith was a defensive first-team All-American as a junior, recording a then-school record 11 sacks. His Missouri record of 24 tackles for loss in 2000 still stands. Smith was drafted fourth overall by the Bengals in 2001, and played seven seasons in Cininnati before spending seven with the 49ers. He tallied five Pro Bowl appearances and was a first-team All-Pro in 2011.
“I think it’s really exciting,” Pinkel said of Smith returning to the Tigers. “I think that he’s a guy that’s proven himself. I’ve watched him on TV for many, many years. His picture’s hanging up in a couple different places in that building (the Mizzou Athletic Training Complex). Again, it’s just an example of somebody who’s extremely successful, and I think that’s very positive for everybody.”
Team captain Evan Boehm introduced himself to Smith on Thursday and the 6-foot-3, 320-pound center was taken aback.
“Did you see how big he is?” Boehm asked. “Oh my god. He is huge. I just went over to him and I said, ‘Hey Justin, my name’s Evan,’ shook his hand, and he squeezed my hand …. I thought I had big hands, and he just swallowed mine.”
Although few on Missouri’s staff can compete with Smith’s resume, he might have to fight for name recognition. A member of the Tigers’ newest freshman class, a 6-foot-7 wide receiver from Dublin, Ga., is also named Justin Smith.