Those who work together for a decade are bound to build relationships and friendships, so Steve Smith doesn’t see what all the fuss is about.
It took some time for he and John Kasay to become friends, but the two were able to find common ground in their 10 seasons together in the Carolina Panthers locker room.
“He’s one of my good friends. I don’t know what the big deal is,” Smith said. “I mean, a white kicker from Georgia and a black guy from California, a wide receiver. We’re friends. Get over it. It’s not that odd.”
The oddity isn’t inherent in skin color, but rather the personalities of the two men and their positions on the field. When they were together in Carolina, the mercurial Smith was the star at wide receiver, a position usually reserved for the game’s biggest prima donnas. Kasay was the quiet veteran kicker.
Smith was one of five current Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on Tuesday to see his friend retire as a Panther, after signing a one-day contract with the team.
For a decade, the two talked about football, faith and family. Kasay offered insight on what to expect from a new coach, Smith said. Or on what it was like to be a father – Kasay has four kids, Smith has three. Once, the two Panthers, their wives and others went on nearly two-week-long trip to Israel together.
“The NFL, it’s described really well, as life in fast forward,” Kasay said. “Looking at the world from different perspectives and different views, that makes us all better people.”
When they first became teammates, Kasay was a 10-year veteran and Smith was a rookie kick returner. With years and attrition, Kasay became the most veteran Panther. His release from the team in 2010 left Smith as the longest-tenured in the locker room.
“His impact on me has been great. It has, in a lot of areas,” Smith said. “But I’m not going to try to give you that so you can put it into two sentences, because it’s greater than that.
“I think I’d be doing him a disservice to try to summarize it because, why does it matter? John Kasay’s leadership and what he’s done is far beyond football.”
After Kasay met with reporters Wednesday, Smith interviewed him for local sports radio. The two spoke for several minutes afterward without a microphone, and they departed with a pat on the back and Kasay saying, “You know where to find me.”
Smith is closer to retirement than rookie himself, but he wasn’t in the mood to talk about that Tuesday. This day was about Kasay.
“I think there’s guys like John who people say, ‘Man if everyone was like him, this would be the outcome,’” Smith said. “I think the great part about John is, there wasn’t another guy like him.”