Sports obituary: Former West star Chris Smith dies at 31

Published 10:51 pm Monday, April 17, 2023

From staff and wire reports

Chris Smith,  one of the key components of the West Rowan football dynasty, died at 31 on Monday.

Smith’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and the Browns confirmed his passing on Tuesday. The cause of death was not immediately known.

“Rest in Peace Chris,” Rosenhaus wrote on Twitter. “Condolences to all his family, friends and loved ones. We will miss you.”

Not much is known about the circumstances of his death yet.

It’s a tragic loss for his family, friends, former teammates and for Rowan County. He had been the ultimate give-back guy and had been a generous donor to local schools and projects. He stayed close to his Rowan County roots no matter where his football odyssey took him.

Smith had signed a contract in March to play for the Seattle Sea Dragons of the XFL.

Smith starred as a defensive end for West Rowan head football coach Scott Young during the state championship seasons of 2008 and 2009 and was Shrine Bowl Defensive MVP in 2009.

He attracted numerous college offers before choosing Arkansas and the chance to play against the best in Southeastern Conference.

He became a starter for the Razorbacks as a sophomore and recorded 18 sacks in his last two seasons of college football.

He was a fifth-round draft pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014 and played three seasons there.

His best NFL seasons were in 2017 with the Cincinnati Bengals — he had three sacks — and in 2018 with the Cleveland Browns, where he started two games and was a regular contributor.

His 2019 season with Cleveland was marred by the tragic death of his girlfriend, Petara Cordero, who was killed when she was hit by a car after she exited the vehicle he was driving. Cordero was standing on the road’s shoulder when the vehicle driven by a 47-year-old woman smashed into the passenger side of Smith’s car.  Smith and Cordero had a daughter shortly before Cordero’s death.

“Chris was one of the kindest players and people that I’ve ever met,” Browns All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett said. “He was willing to give you the shirt off his back for you. It’s hard just knowing people like that can go at any time.”

He played some for the Las Vegas Raidersi in 2020. In 2021, he was briefly with the Baltimore Ravens and then played in four games for the Houston Texans.

He was out of the NFL in 2022, but had started a comeback attempt by signing with the XFL Sea Dragons.