CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - NFL defensive end and Salisbury native Chris Smith is signing a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers.
“I’m excited. It’s a fresh start for everybody,” Smith said. "I’m somebody that loves the game and loves to get after the quarterback from any position on the D-line. "
The 6″1′, 266-pound defensive end has played in 60 career games over six seasons, with 68 tackles, 8.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
Smith spent the last two seasons with the Browns and the year before that with the Bengals. Smith was with the Jaguars from 2014-16 after they selected him in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft out of Arkansas. Smith played in nine games for Cleveland before being released in December.
Smith made a name as a standout defensive player on West Rowan state championship teams a decade ago, then signed to play college ball with Arkansas, and on to the pros with the Cleveland Browns, but locals say he has never forgotten his community.
In 2018, Smith came home to give $40,000 to the Rowan-Salisbury Schools athletic fund, and an additional donation to a local charter school.
Smith held a candlelight vigil in Charlotte in late 2019 for Petara Cordero, his girlfriend and the mother of their daughter, who was tragically killed in a car accident on an interstate in Cleveland, Ohio.
According to an interview on the Panthers official website, Smith often talked with Cordero about returning to North Carolina and playing for the Panthers.
“I think she had something to do with this. I’m going to live to honor her,” Smith said. “I feel like she would want me to continue playing, especially with the Panthers.”