Husker legend, Chiefs Hall of Famer Smith takes a swing at players’ union


As Falls City Journal Editor Jason Schock wrote a week ago, “In teaming up with a local charitable juggernaut and narrowing its focus, Community Medical Center will later this month host its biggest — in a myriad of ways — charity golf tournament ever.”
For the 5th annual CMC golf event, the hospital’s foundation has partnered with the Tanner Shelby Merz Foundation and the twosome is fixed on a singular, stated aim: Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness. Whereas the previous four events were held for the general benefit of the CMC Foundation, this time the cause is specific, and the event is a two-day affair. A “Celebrity Gala Dinner” will be held Thursday, June 25 at the Elks Club, followed by the four-person golf scramble Friday, June 26 at the FC Golf Club. Thursday, following dinner, attendees will hear from guest speaker Dr. Arthur Maerlender, the University of Nebraska’s Director of Clinical Research and Associate Director for the Center for Brain, Biology, & Behavior.
In terms of celebrity, the 2015 version of CMC’s charity golf tournament looks to be different than anything Falls City has hosted in decades. Not since, perhaps, the days when “Handsome” Harley Race and “Bulldog” Bob Brown appeared on the same Prichard Auditorium wrestling card, if not longer.
Former Nebraska All-American, Kansas City Chief Hall of Famer and two-time Super Bowl Champion Neil Smith headlines a bill that includes former Huskers Johnny “The Jet” Rodgers, Tommie Frazier, Steve Taylor, Jerry Murtaugh, Lawrence Pete, Calvin Jones and others. WBO World Lightweight Champion Terence “Bud” Crawford has accepted an invitation to attend as well.
Smith, now 49, was the second player selected in the 1988 NFL draft and one of the few “home runs” the Chiefs hit that decade. KC actually traded up from No. 3 to get the defensive end, who was picked before receivers Tim Brown (Raiders, 6th), Sterling Sharpe (Packers, 7th) and Michael Irvin (Cowboys, 11th), all three now members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If Chiefs fans were chafed by that move, they quickly forgot all about it, as the former Husker, with linebacker Derrick Thomas, headlined one of the NFL’s best defenses throughout the early- to mid-1990s. Smith’s 7-foot, 1-inch wingspan eventually formed a home run swing rivaled in fame by only that of maybe George Brett at the Truman Sports Complex, and nose strips became all the fashion at Arrowhead. Smith “hit” a league-high 15 “home runs” in 1993 and didn’t miss a Pro Bowl from 1991 to 1995. He then went to Denver and helped the rival Broncos win back-to-back Super Bowls (XXXII and XXXIII). The New Orleans native went home after retiring, but returned to Kansas City following Hurricane Katrina and in 2006 was inducted into the Chiefs Hall of Fame.
But in 2013 Smith and nearly two dozen other former Chiefs, including Albert Lewis, filed concussion lawsuits against their former employers and last summer sued the NFL Players Association, alleging the union withheld information regarding the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries.
Smith is a life-long loyal Husker, but his appearance in Falls City likely has everything to do with the event’s affiliation with CB3 and the cause of TBI.
Last August, Smith, and several other former Chiefs — all now in their 40s — claimed the players association has for decades been aware of the evidence linking repetitive TBI to long-term neurological problems but ignored the risks to players and failed to alert players to the issue. A Missouri judge in May ruled the cases should be heard separately, which could force team officials to testify about claims they hid the risks of repeated head injuries.
Smith played 13 years in the NFL and recorded 105 sacks. He and the other players who sued, however, developed “post-concussion syndrome — e.g. mood, behavior and cognitive dysfunction — and neurological impairments/damage” between late 1987 and early 1993 when there was no NFL collective bargaining agreement in place.
Next week: Profiles on each of the celebrities making their way to Falls City for the CMC/TSMF charity event for TBI Awareness.

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