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Former NFL defensive end Chris Smith dies at 31

No details about the circumstances of Smith's death were shared. Smith played eight seasons in the NFL and signed with the XFL's Seattle Sea Dragons in March.
Cleveland Browns defensive end Chris Smith after a game against the Tennessee Titans in Cleveland
Then-Cleveland Browns defensive end Chris Smith in 2019. David Richard / AP file

Former NFL defensive lineman and current XFL player Chris Smith has died at 31, officials said Tuesday.

The cause and time of Smith's death were not immediately shared.

"Chris was a powerful presence in the locker room. Loved and admired by his teammates and the coaching staff," the XFL said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family at this difficult time."

Smith's high school, West Rowan High School in North Carolina, wrote in a tribute announcing his death Monday on Twitter: “Rest In Peace to a West Rowan Legend!”

“Chris was a better person than he was player! The impact he had on those around him will be remembered forever!” the statement said.

After high school, Smith, of Mount Ulla, played for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks and was picked in the fifth round of the 2014 draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

He played eight seasons in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cleveland Browns, the Las Vegas Raiders and the Houston Texans in 2021. 

He signed with the XFL's Seattle Sea Dragons in March. He played five games with the Sea Dragons, making five tackles.

"The entire XFL family mourns the loss of Chris Smith, a cherished player and member of the Seattle Sea Dragons," the team said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

Tributes poured in on social media.

Browns tight end David Njoku tweeted: “Rest in paradise Chris Smith. Hometown hero and a brother to everyone. Such a kind soul. This is Heartbreaking.”

Buffalo Bills tight end Shaq Lawson wrote: “Man Prayers up for Chris Smith family.”

Former Raiders quarterback Derek Carr shared a photo of Smith from their days playing together with the caption: "Love you bro."

Mike "Jocko" Jacques, the sports director of NBC affiliate WMTV of Madison, Wisconsin, tweeted: “Loved making that dude laugh. I’ll never forget your smile and I’ll never forget how hard you worked to make yourself better on and off the field."

Charlotte Observer sportswriter Mike Kaye tweeted that Smith “had a smile that could light up any room he was in.”

Zac Jackson, a reporter for The Athletic, tweeted: "Awful news about the passing of former Browns and Bengals (among others) DE Chris Smith. Chris was one of the nicest guys to ever come through the Browns locker room."

Smith's girlfriend, Petara Cordero, with whom he shares a daughter, died in September 2019 when she was struck by a car. 

Smith — then signed with the Browns — wrote in a touching tribute on Instagram: “God has a plan for all of us we can’t understand but she is in a better place now and she can rest easy. My wifey my best friend and the mother of my beautiful daughter. Love you baby.”