HomeTop HeadlinesFormer Defensive Lineman Dies at 66

Former Defensive Lineman Dies at 66

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The world of football is filled with inspiring tales of players rising from anonymity to leave a significant impact on the sport. One such story is that of Don Smerek, a former defensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys.

Smerek’s journey from an unheralded college player to a pillar of the NFL trenches symbolizes the kind of narratives that resonate within the sport. He passed away on March 16, 2024, at the age of 66, following a brave fight against cancer, leaving behind a legacy not just for his on-field exploits but also for the dynamic life he lived beyond the sport.

Smerek was born in Waterford, Michigan. He relocated to Henderson, Nevada with his family at a young age. At Basic High School, he gained all-state lineman recognition and later played for the University of Nevada, Reno, earning All-Big Sky honors in his final year under coach Chris Ault.

Though he went undrafted, Smerek’s passion and determination for the game remained unshaken. In 1981, his perseverance bore fruit when he signed with the Dallas Cowboys, where he spent his entire seven-season NFL career.

During his time with the Cowboys, Smerek played in 69 games, establishing himself as a reliable presence on the defensive line. He recorded a career total of 14.5 sacks, showcasing his capability to disrupt the opposing offense. Yet, Smerek’s true legacy extends beyond statistical achievements and game highlights; it’s rooted in the bonds he built and the lives he influenced.

Randy White, a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and former Cowboys star, remembers Smerek both as an invaluable teammate and a treasured friend. White said, “He was an exceptional teammate, a remarkable individual. On the field, his unwavering reliability made him stand out, especially when it came to rushing the passer on third downs. His total commitment distinguished him; he gave his best every time.”

Debbie Nye, Smerek’s sister, described him as having a “magnetic personality” that attracted people, leading to enduring friendships that outlasted his football career. His zest for life and love for the outdoors often found him fishing with friends like White, away from the clamor of stadiums.

After hanging up his boots, Smerek chose to settle in Texas, where he led a life defined by happiness, camaraderie, and community engagement.

Smerek is survived by his wife Tandi, three brothers, a sister, and several nieces and nephews. His influence will remain a source of inspiration for those who knew him and future generations who will learn about his journey.

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