Since entering the NFL in 2018, Roquan Smith has rarely, if ever, missed a beat. He quickly became a key impact player on the Bears’ 2018 NFC North Championship team. In the ensuing years, he’s morphed into one of pro football’s premier linebackers, if not the very finest.
But while Smith is famous for a never-say-die attitude combined with a lightning-like sideline-to-sideline capacity, he’s not exactly a ‘trash talker’ by any means. From high school and college in Georgia to the highest levels of the game, Smith has always preferred to let his play do the talking for him.
The Bears have certainly noticed Smith’s humble approach, as they’ve announced he’s their nominee for the 2021 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award.
The Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award is presented annually to the NFL player that best exemplifies outstanding sportsmanship on the field. The award was, of course, first created in 2014 to honor the late owner of the Steelers, Art Rooney.
The following steps of the award process are simple. A panel of legends will vote on it — this year, it’s Warrick Dunn, 2014 winner Larry Fitzgerald, Hall of Famer Curtis Martin, and Leonard Wheeler — and select eight finalists (four each from the AFC and NFC). Then, whoever the finalists end up being will have their names listed on the Pro Bowl ballot under the NFL Sportsmanship Award category when the player vote starts later this month. Finally, the league will announce the final winner as part of the NFL Honors on February 10, before Super Bowl LVI. The prize is a $25,000 donation to a charity of the player’s choosing.
As noted, while quiet, Smith is no slouch on the field. Earlier in the 2021 season, he became the first Bears defender to record at least 100 tackles in each of his first four campaigns since Lance Briggs did it from 2003-2006. He was also voted a Second-Team All-Pro after the 2020 season. With any luck after this year, he very well might be selected to not only another All-Pro Team but his first Pro Bowl.
One thing’s for sure: Smith will continue to let his exemplary play do all the necessary speaking for him.