1943 - 1986

"I want people to know what I've been through and how terrible this disease is. Maybe it will help people understand. Maybe it will help with development in research. Maybe something positive will come out of this."

- Jerry Smith

Jerry Smith attended Arizona State, but did not play varsity football until his junior year.  In his senior year he snagged 42 catches for 618 yards and scored 5 touchdowns, attracting the attention of several pro team scouts in the process.  In 1965 he was a 9th round draft choice of the Washington Redskins where he remained for the next 13 seasons.  His 3rd season was his best – receiving 67 passes for 849 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns.  In 1972 the Redskins beat the Dallas Cowboys to claim the conference title, securing their 1st Super Bowl appearance.  When the 6’3”, 208-pound Smith played in Super Bowl VII (the Redskins eventually lost to the Miami Dolphins), Sports Illustrated called him “an outstanding receiver among tight ends, with the ability to break open for a long gain.”  During his career Smith played in 168 games and had 421 receptions for a total of 5,496 yards.  Scoring an amazing 60 touchdowns, he held the record for tight ends that stood for almost 25 years and was twice named All-Pro.  Speculation had existed for some time regarding Smith’s sexuality.  Though a legend on the gridiron, he chose to remain closeted in the deeply homophobic world of professional sports.  After retiring Smith became co-owner of The Boathouse, a gay bar in Austin Texas.  It was later confirmed that he had been romantically involved with former Redskins teammate Dave Kopay.  Jerry Smith died of HIV complications in 1986.  He was 43.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United States

Era/Epoch AIDS Era (1980-present) Information Age (1970-present)

Field(s) of Contribution


Commemorations & Honors

Smith's Uniform Number 87 and the Redskins Logo Affixed to the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt

Two-Time Pro Bowler

Redskins Ring of Fame Inductee

Professional Football Researchers Association Named Smith to the PRFA Hall of Very Good Class of 2011

Played in Super Bowl VII (1973)


Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell