Four years ago tonight, Torrey Smith played a football game.
While that alone isn’t anything special, the fact that he played despite what transpired hours before was something really special.
In the late hours of Saturday night, September 22, 2012, Smith’s brother, Tevin Jones, died as a result of a motorcycle accident. According to ESPN.com’s Sal Paolantonio, Jones was wearing a helmet and alcohol wasn’t a factor in the accident.
“It was tough. I didn’t know until 4 o’clock if I was going to play,” Smith said. “I only had like an hour of sleep. Emotionally, I didn’t know how I was going to hold up.”
Smith was drafted out of Maryland by the Ravens in 2011. Baltimore fans saw him as one of their favorites, as they grew to know him and his consistent efforts to help the community via the Torrey Smith Foundation.
Smith had started 2012 on a strong note. He only caught four passes in Baltimore’s first two games that season, but gained 108 yards on those receptions (27 yard average). Heading into Week 3, the Ravens were 1-1 and were hosting the AFC Champion Patriots–the team that denied Baltimore a Super Bowl berth eight months prior.
For many reasons, the Ravens entered that game with a lot going on. Yet, no one had more on their mind than Smith. Even though the Ravens foster a family-like culture, as much as the organization rallied around Smith, coping with the death of a brother was something only he was going through at the time.
Once the game began, Smith didn’t touch the ball for awhile. In fact, his first reception didn’t come until the 9:53 mark of the 2nd quarter, but it was a big one.
Joe Flacco picked out Smith in the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown. That play put the Ravens on the board and cut the Patriots’ lead to 13-7. But more importantly, that play was a tribute from Smith to his brother Tevin.
It was an exciting play on the surface, but at its core, hopefully, that play helped Smith and his family heal.
Later in the game, with less than five minutes remaining and trailing by nine points, the Ravens needed a lift.
Smith was their guy.
As Flacco was pressured and scrambled right, he found Smith in the end zone once more. It was a 5-yard score that brought Baltimore to within two points.
After the Ravens defense forced a punt, their offense got the ball back with 1:55 remaining, trailing 30-28. Baltimore worked the ball down to the New England 7-yard line with two seconds left. Justin Tucker stepped up and crushed a 27-yarder over the right upright to win the game as time expired. Bill Belichick vehemently argued with the replacement officials and the crew briefly seemed confused.
But in the end, the Ravens were emerged victoriously over the Patriots, 31-30.
Smith finished the game with six receptions for 127 yards and two crucial touchdowns. Those 127 yards are the 5th-most he’s ever gained in his 90-game NFL career (playoffs included). After the win, with a heavy heart, Smith spoke to his teammates in the locker room.
Smith could’ve easily sat the game out and we all would have understood.
But Torrey’s decision to play and dominate the game, was truly incredible.