Rod “He Hate Me” Smart had a lot of roadblocks on his way to the NFL.
He started by paying his dues in the one-and-done XFL, a football league led by WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. He used that short-lived stardom and later spent four seasons in the NFL, playing in Super Bowl XXXVII.
After his football career, Smart tried his hand on a handful of different ventures.
Here’s what you need to know about Rod “He Hate Me” Smart:
1. Smart Had the Nickname ‘He Hate Me’
Smart took full advantage of the XFL’s willingness to let its players put whatever they want on the back of their jerseys. He became known by many for the unique nickname that he chose the be printed on his Los Angeles Outlaws jersey: “He Hate Me.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in 2004 that Smart came up with the moniker because his opponent is “always going to hate” him. Even his family members, he said:
After I win, he’s gonna hate me. It is what it is. It’s a saying I was saying when I’d feel something wasn’t going my way. For example, (when) I was on the squad in Vegas and coach was putting other guys in, (if) I felt I’m better than them, you know, hey, ‘he hate me.’ See what I’m saying? Give me a chance. That’s all I ask. It came from the heart. Within. The way I felt. I feel as if everyone hates me, from my mom to my dad and even my brothers and sisters everyone “Hates Me”. My buddy Greg Kates always used to use it, so I took it from him.
He played in the first-ever XFL game on NBC, which also proved to be the highest-rated game in the league’s history, as its viewership continued to drop until it eventually folded after one season.
During the season, other players in the XFL poked fun of Smart’s nickname, including two players having “I Hate Me” and “I Hate He Too” sewn into the back of their jerseys. The two teams played again and humorously had the new surnames, “Still Hate He” and “Still Hate He Too” on their jerseys.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote in its article on Smart that the name’s popularity made its way to future teammate and Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme, who named one of his dogs “She Hate Me.”
In the middle of his NFL career in Carolina, Smart reportedly said he wanted to change his nickname to “He Love Me,” because of the support he received from fans, but it seemed to fail.
2. He Won an NFC Championship With Carolina
Smart got his first taste of the NFL in 2000 out of college. He wasn’t drafted, but signed a free-agent deal with the San Diego Chargers. His time with the franchise didn’t last long, however, as he was released from the contract following training camp.
Following that, “He Hate Me” signed with the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos. But he lasted just one preseason game in the CFL before being released again, but then signed by the Philadelphia Eagles to be on the team’s practice squad. He made his first appearance in the NFL in November 2001 and played for the Eagles in six games, most frequently on special teams. He was waved after the season, but was claimed the next season by the Panthers.
It was in Carolina that Smart finally saw stardom. He played in all 16 games and was the Panthers’ leading tackler on special teams. The following season, he spent time as the Panthers’ kick returner and returned 41 kicks for 23.1 yards and 947 yards. He scored the only touchdown of his career against the New Orleans Saints — a 100-yard touchdown return.
Smart won the NFC Championship with the team in 2004, defeating the Eagles 14-3, before losing to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVII.
The next season, he suffered from ailing injures, which limited his playing time drastically, but he recovered and made a return in 2005 before being released in 2006. Smart signed with the Oakland Raiders in 2006, but didn’t make the team’s final roster. That was his last season with an NFL team.
3. Smart Attended Western Kentucky
Smart was one of seven children, born in Lakeland, Florida. After a successful high school athletic career, he attended Western Kentucky University, where he ranked near the top in school records on the gridiron. He registered 2,305 rushing yards on 356 carries to go along with 21 touchdowns. He also caught a few passes and returned kicks and punts for the team. He graduated with a degree in kinesiology.
4. His Brother & Cousin Also Played in the NFL
Smart’s isn’t the only one from his family to play in the NFL. His younger brother is Chris Rainey, who played running back and returned kicks for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts and was on the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad. Following that, Rainey started a career in the CFL, where he still plays.
Also, former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell is Smart’s first cousin.
Mitchell had the best statistical career of the three in the NFL. He caught 90 passes as receiver for 1,263 yards and 5 touchdowns. Most recently, he was on the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad in 2005.
5. After Football, Smart Started a Business & Tried Acting
After his football career, Smart tried a career in acting. He played the male lead role in a 2010 independent film, “Don’t Blame the Lettuce.”
He told Yahoo in an interview about picking up acting, “In the NFL, you’re dressed up, you’ve got a helmet on and they don’t see your face. With (acting), they can put a face with a name.”
Smart lists “entertainment” on his LinkedIn profile and is also the owner of SmartSize, a personalized fitness business aimed at individuals and groups in North Carolina.