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Fans love 'He Hate Me'

Smart's jersey more famous than he is

Posted: Jan. 30, 2004

Houston - You got to love "He Hate Me."

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The Panthers' Rod Smart brought attention to himself in the XFL with 'He Hate Me' on the back of his jersey.
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If you don't, then you're the reason he came up with the nickname in the first place.

Rod Smart, a.k.a., "He Hate Me."

If there is a more popular player at Super Bowl XXXVIII, you'd be hard pressed to find him.

His No. 32 jersey is being pulled off the racks here faster than Jake Delhomme's No. 17 or Julius Peppers' No. 90. In stores where you can get your jersey personalized, people are buying up No. 32s and putting "He Hate Me" on the back.

In case you're confused, "He Hate Me" is the name Smart put on his back when he was playing for the Las Vegas Outlaws of the rebel XFL, the alternate football league started by wrestling mogul Vince McMahon. Almost anything went in the XFL and players were free to put whatever name they wanted on their back.

Smart came up with "He Hate Me."

"Basically, my brother's my opponent," he said. "After I win, he's gonna hate me. It is what it is. It's a saying I was saying when I'd feel something wasn't going my way. For example, (when) I was on the squad in Vegas and coach was putting other guys in.

"If I felt I'm better than them, you know, hey, he hate me. See what I'm saying? Give me a chance. That's all I ask. It came from the heart. Within. The way I felt."

Smart's jersey name has become nationally known even if Smart the player hasn't. He was claimed off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles during training camp and established himself as a key special teams player for the Panthers.

In just his third season in the NFL, the 5-foot-11, 201-pound Smart led the team with a 23.1-yard kickoff return average and finished second with 14 special teams tackles. He played sparingly as a running back behind Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster, carrying 20 times for 49 yards.

Not exactly a speed demon, Smart ranked seventh in the NFC in kickoff returns, but he did have a 100-yarder for a touchdown against New Orleans. He has been what the Panthers hoped, a solid special teams player who fits into the big picture in Carolina.

A veteran of both the Canadian Football League and the XFL, Smart's future beyond football is probably in marketing. With all the marketing skills McMahon displayed as pro wrestling's godfather, it took a 24-year-old former Western Illinois running back to make people notice the XFL.

"After it blew up or whatever, he came and thanked me for getting the league noticed more," Smart said. "He was saying, thanks to me his wife watches football now. I guess a lot of people like the nickname."

Delhomme liked the nickname so much that he named one of his prized thoroughbreds "She Hate Me." Most of his teammates refer to him as "He" or "Hate."

Smith said he has trademarked the nickname and it might not be too long before there's a "He Hate Me" clothing line or "He Hate Me" power drink. The idea of legally changing his name so he can wear "He Hate Me" on the back of his Panthers jersey has crossed Smart's mind.

Right now, however, he's just enjoying the attention that goes with playing in the Super Bowl. His teammates aren't jealous, either.

"Everyone likes me," he said. "They don't hate me."

From the Jan. 31, 2004 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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