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Remembering Jerry Smith, a gay NFL star who never got his due

Week 7: Smith belongs in the Hall of Fame. Plus, game of the week, fantasy advice.

Jerry Smith
NFL.com

This past week was the 30th anniversary of the death of one of the unsung heroes in LGBT sports history. Jerry Smith, a former tight end of the Washington Redskins, died on Oct. 15, 1986, from AIDS-related causes.

Smith lived his whole life closeted and was one of the first known players to live a double life as an NFL star and a closeted gay athlete. When using the word “star” to describe Smith, it is not an understatement. He was a two-time Pro Bowler, and is part of the Redskins Ring of Fame. Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, and Shannon Sharpe are the only three tight ends to score more touchdowns than Smith. His omission from the Hall of Fame is one of the greatest injustices in NFL history.

Smith played in Washington from 1965-77 and played for some of the greatest coaches in NFL history, including Vince Lombardi, one of the most LGBT-friendly coaches in league history. Lombardi had a gay brother, and preached equality and acceptance on his teams. Yet, Smith still felt the need to stay closeted.

It is a shame to think that 30 years after Smith’s death, there is likely a Jerry Smith in today’s NFL. With hundreds of NFL players, and zero openly gay players, it is unfortunate to think about the idea that someone is hiding their identity in an NFL locker room. I hope that 30 years from now, we can look back on many successful careers of openly gay NFL players. However, despite the fact that Jerry Smith did not live one day of his life as an openly gay man, his story is still important and he should be remembered.

His story brought attention to the fact that gay men can do anything a straight man can, if not better. Even today, his story erases the stigma and stereotype that gay men are feminine. LGBT men can be whatever they want to be, and LGBT women can be whatever they want to be. There is no box that we need to fit in, and we can be ourselves. Smith’s story and life should be remembered by LGBT community.

The NFL Network ran an excellent documentary about Smith that is well worth your time.

These are some Week 7 bits:

Game of the Week

Houston Texans vs. Denver Broncos

This week’s premier matchup pits the defending champions against a team with several question marks, the Houston Texans. The biggest number in this game is $38,000,000. That’s the amount that the Texans paid QB Brock Osweiler to leave the Broncos for Houston. Denver chose Trevor Siemian to replace him during training camp, and the two first-time starters have led their teams to 4-2 records to begin the season.

Houston has had an abysmal offense to begin the year, but last week the Texans overcame a 14-point deficit with less than three minutes to go to beat the Colts in overtime. It was the first time a team overcame a 14-point deficit with less than three minutes to go since Tim Tebow and the Broncos beat the Dolphins back in 2011.

The Broncos don’t have Tebow, but they have a different type of magic: their defense. Their defense was statistically one of the best defenses in years and it led them to a Super Bowl. Their defense is carrying them again this year, and they started 4-0. However, they have dropped two straight, and have not played since last Thursday.

The Texans have alternated wins and losses for their last five games, but have played a tough schedule to begin the year, facing three 2015 playoff teams already this season. This will be a very good test for their offense that has looked very shaky until the last three minutes of their last game.

As painful as it is for me to say this, the Texans will not win this game. The Broncos are on a different level, and this is an important game for many Broncos. The defense wants to make Osweiler regret leaving Denver, and much of the Broncos’ staff, including head coach Gary Kubiak, want to get a win over their former team as well.

Broncos 24, Texans 10

Upset of the Week

Los Angeles Rams over New York Giants

The Rams and the Giants are this week’s London game, and it’s a crucial game for both teams. Both teams stand at 3-3 and are about to head into their byes. The Rams are coming off a tough loss in which QB Case Keenum set a personal passing record with 19 straight completions and four touchdowns. The Giants just snapped a three-game losing streak with a tight win against the Ravens.

The Giants needed a win this past Sunday, and this win is just as crucial. Odell Beckham Jr. finally had his breakout game in the offense and it really helped New York claim the victory. The Rams had a bad game last week in the secondary without Trumaine Johnson, and if he’s back, he’ll cover Beckham. If he isn’t back, the Giants will have a decent chance to win.

The Rams offense will also have the same chance to shine. Keenum had one of the best games of his career last week, and they have not utilized RB Todd Gurley to his full potential. If Keenum can ride the momentum from last week, and Gurley can give a good game, I like the Rams’ chances.

The Rams showed the potential to have a talented offense, and I like them to upset the Giants in London.

Rams 27, Giants 24

Fantasy Start of the Week
Buccaneers RB Jacquizz Rodgers

Running backs in Tampa Bay have caught the injury bug this year, and Rodgers signed with the Bucs after a Week 1 win over the Falcons. Injuries to Doug Martin and Charles Sims lifted Rodgers into the starting lineup against the Panthers on Monday Night Football in Week 5, where they got their first win since Week 1. Coming off the bye week, Rodgers draws the 49ers, who have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs. They were atrocious against the Bills last week, and I expect the same this week. Rodgers is due for another big game.

Fantasy Sit of the Week
Jets RB Matt Forte

Forte went off on Week 2 on Thursday Night Football, scoring three touchdowns. In the four games since, the Jets have gone 0-4 and Forte has scored zero touchdowns. Forte’s workload has also declined as of late, with Bilal Powell getting more carries. Geno Smith is also starting at quarterback, which means the Ravens, who have allowed the second-fewest points to opposing running backs, will skew their game plan towards stopping Forte and the ground game. Expect Forte to continue his slump this week.

Fantasy Pick-up of the Week
Packers WR Ty Montgomery

Ty Who? Before last week’s game against Dallas, Montgomery had not caught a ball this season. Last week, he led the team in targets, receptions, and yards. He was also the team’s backup running back with James Starks out with an injury. Now, Eddie Lacy is likely going to injured reserve, which means the Packers are out of running backs other than Knile Davis, who they traded for on Tuesday. Expect Montgomery to get carries and an increased role in the passing game.

Lock of the Week
Minnesota Vikings over Philadelphia Eagles

There was a point where these two teams were two of the three remaining undefeated teams. Since Week 4, Philadelphia’s bye week, Minnesota has won their two games, while Philadelphia has lost their two games. In another game where a quarterback is going back to his former home, the quarterback will exact revenge and win.

Philadelphia looked lights out in their last win in Week 3 against the Steelers. And since then, they haven’t looked terrible, but their efforts against Detroit and Washington, two average teams, have led them to come up short. This Vikings defense is the best defense Carson Wentz has faced so far, and they will give him looks he has yet to see.

Minnesota’s offense without Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson isn’t anything flashy, but it is effective. The receiving corps, Stefon Diggs, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Adam Thielen are stepping up and putting up career numbers. If they can avoid the bye week rust, this should be an easy win for the Vikings, and they will be 6-0 at the end of the week.

It is amazing how the Vikings have done this well not at full-health. It shows a lot about Mike Zimmer’s ability to coach, and he’s doing an incredible job with this team. I think Minnesota is a legitimate Super Bowl contender, and this week’s game against the Eagles will help prove that statement to be correct.

Vikings 26, Eagles 17

Buzzer's Best Bet
Outsports co-founder Jim Buzinski will make one pick each week against the spread.

Vikings minus 3 at Eagles
Pick: Vikings

The Vikings have throttled every quarterback they have faced this season and will come up with a plan to confuse Eagles rookie Carson Wentz. Vikings QB Sam Bradford gets a win against his old team.
Last week: 0-1. Season: 3-3.

Hot Player of the Week
Redskins TE Vernon Davis

In keeping the tradition of celebrating Redskins tight ends, Davis, who is fifth all-time in touchdowns by a tight end behind Jerry Smith, scored his first touchdown since 2014 this past Sunday.

NFL: Washington Redskins-Minicamp Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Brener is a student at the University of Central Florida who writes a weekly NFL column for Outsports. He can be reached via email (jeremybrenerchs@gmail.com) and followed on Twitter.