After opening his home to 25 members of his family affected by Hurricane Katrina, former Patriots cornerback Otis Smith has a message to those who extended a helping hand:
“Quite a few people from the New England area sent a lot of gift cards, a lot of money; people sent a lot of little boxes of stuff to help out, toiletries and that sort of stuff,” he said from his Maryland home yesterday.
“I really appreciate the way the people in the New England area responded in helping me. I didn’t expect the response to be what it was. The people, it seems like they’re still cheering for me. Even though I don’t play for the Patriots anymore, it seems as if the people in the New England area truly care about players who played there. It’s a heartfelt thing and you can’t help but appreciate it.”
Smith estimated his family received between $5,000-6,000 in cash donations. His situation was first brought to light in New England by Boston Globe NFL writer Ron Borges.
“People sent a lot of heartfelt messages and emails –- it was overwhelming,” said Smith, who enjoyed a 13-year NFL career in which he played for the Patriots in 1996 and from 2000-2002. “If I could play for any team ever again, it would be up there.”
In the offseason, the Patriots re-signed Smith to a one-day contract so he could retire as a member of the franchise. He also played for the Eagles, Jets and Lions.
Smith said 19 of his 25 family members have returned to their homes. Six are still living with Smith’s family, including his nephew, who is playing for a local high school where Smith is serving as an assistant coach.
“It’s hard to understand what we were going through here, having so many people at one time,” said Smith, who works as a real estate investor. “You wake up one morning and there are 15 cars outside, people everywhere, touching elbows.
“We weathered the storm,” he said. “Now everybody is trying to get their lives together.”
Looking ahead, we’ll plan on posting our next update Wednesday after Bill Belichick’s scheduled press conference (10:45 a.m. EDT).