Teammate's career-ending injury ended his search for hypocrites

by Art Toalston, posted Monday, June 05, 2000 (16 years ago)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--"That Jesus stuff really works, doesn't it?"

Sherman Smith had caught a fellow Seattle Seahawk in a compromising position; later, tapping him on the shoulder, Smith took aim at the player -- the "hypocrite" -- who had called himself a Christian.

Smith, running backs coach for the Tennessee Titans the past five years and nine-year NFL veteran, recounted his disdain for hypocrites during a June 2 chapel service at the Southern Baptist Convention Building in Nashville, Tenn. -- and during that evening's Billy Graham crusade in the city's Adelphia Coliseum.

"I'm a visual learner," Smith said. One of his pet phrases was, "What you do speaks so loud I can't hear a word you're saying." Although he had an interest in knowing Jesus Christ as a teenager and young adult, Smith devoted more attention to how athletes and others who called themselves Christians acted rather than what they said.

And he wasn't impressed.

Not during his college career as a quarterback at Miami (Ohio) University, tallying a 33-1-1 record. And not as a second-round draft pick of the NFL's Seahawks.

Not until Ken Hutcherson showed up for training camp.

A hard-hitting middle linebacker and unabashed Christian, Hutcherson caught Smith's attention, and Smith watched Hutcherson closely for six weeks, looking for him to stumble, to be a hypocrite like so many others.

Then, unexpectedly, came the test. A gut-wrenching test.

Hutcherson was cut down from behind in a play during the last preseason game of 1976, left on the ground crying out in agony with a knee injury. Somber teammates watched as he was carted off the field. Later came the news that Hutcherson had suffered a career-ending blow to his knee.

Teammates came by to console Hutcherson after the game, the last of whom was Smith, who still had Hutcherson's faith under a microscope.

"Sherm," Hutcherson, somehow upbeat and smiling with ice packs on his knee, said to Smith, "I'm excited to see what God has planned for my life.

"You see, Sherm, I'm a Christian and nothing happens in my life unless it's filtered through God's hands first."

Smith responded to Hutcherson in a way he never had to a Christian before: "Tell me more."

And right there in the locker room, Hutcherson did, sharing the gospel with Smith, telling him of God's love, God's yearning to impart forgiveness and a new life through faith and trust in his Son, Jesus Christ, as Smith's Lord and Savior.

Smith listened but didn't take that step of faith -- until a few weeks later, when he was facing a less-serious knee injury that nevertheless had left him feeling, "It's over with."

Sitting in his car, Smith finally took hold of what Hutcherson had said. "Lord, I need you to take control," Smith prayed, humbling himself, confessing his sinfulness, inviting Christ into his life, and sensing something new. Supplanting his preoccupation with hypocrites, it was "a peace and a confidence I had never known before."

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