Steve Smith Sr. retired in January after a 16-year NFL career in which he made 1,031 catches for 14,731 yards and 81 touchdowns, all top-12 marks in league history. He and Tim Brown are the only players to eclipse 13,000 receiving yards and 4,000 return yards in their careers.
In other words, he has Pro Football Hall of Fame credentials. He just doesn't have Pro Football Hall of Fame eligibility — not yet.
Steve Smith retired in 2013 after a six-year NFL career in which he made 245 catches for 2,641 yards and 12 touchdowns. He does not have Hall of Fame credentials, but he does have Hall of Fame eligibility and, probably most importantly, the same name as the wide receiver who starred for the Carolina Panthers and Ravens.
And what else but mistaken identity explains Smith’s presence on the list of 108 nominees for induction into next year’s class, alongside players like Randy Moss, Brian Urlacher and Richard Seymour?
According to the Hall of Fame, "[a]ny fan may nominate any qualified person who has been connected with pro football in any capacity simply by writing to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The only restriction is that a player and coach must have last played or coached at least five seasons before he can be considered."
There's a screening process beyond that so that anyone with "even a remote chance of eventual Hall of Fame election" is included. There's also a more-than-remote chance that someone on the Selection Committee saw "WR Steve Smith" on the list of candidates and forgot Smith Sr. won't be eligible for another few seasons.
Even the NFL.com's Hall of Fame fan vote portal, as of Tuesday night, isn't wise to the discrepancy.
Somehow, this isn't the NFL's strangest case of identity theft this year.