Former Saints player Will Smith was shot to death in an apparent road rage encounter in New Orleans late Saturday, according to multiple reports.
The 34-year-old, who helped the Louisiana football team snag a 2009 Super Bowl win, was killed following a three-car crash that erupted in gunfire, the New Orleans coroner confirmed.
The man behind the wheel of a Hummer H2 “exchanged words” with Smith after a fender-bender, when the driver struck the defensive end’s Mercedes Benz SUV from behind, and brandished a handgun. The 35-year-old suspect then opened fire and shot Smith multiple times as he sat in the vehicle.
Smith’s wife Racquel R Joseph Smith was hospitalized and two bullets struck her leg during the Garden District shooting.
The pro-athlete wrote of his Saturday night in an Instagram post saying he was “having a blast” at the city’s French Quarter Festival.
He leaves behind three children with his wife, Racquel.
Smith’s death shocked his former Saints teammates and NFL athletes far and wide.
Saints spokesman Greg Bensel acknowledged Smith’s death and said it was a “senseless and tragic loss.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Will Smith — his wife Racquel — his children William, Wynter and Lisa,” Bensel wrote in a tweet.
His condolences were joined by former Saints player Jon Vilma and current Arizona Cardinals player Tyrann Mathieu, who poured their grief into social media early Sunday. Current Saints player Mark Ingram was among the condolences.
“Devastated,” Ingram wrote. “Lord, please be with the Smith family at this tragic time. Nonsense, man.”
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Glenn Dorsey remarked that “life’s too short” after learning of the fatal shooting.
The Queens-born defensive end, who played collegiately at Ohio State, spent the first 10 seasons of his pro career in New Orleans after the Saints drafted him in the first round of the 2004 draft.
Smith recorded double-digit sacks in two of those seasons, 2006 and 2009, earning Pro Bowl honors in 2006. He also was an integral piece of the Saints squad that won Super Bowl XLIV after the 2009 season.
He tore his ACL in a 2013 preseason game and missed the entire regular season.
The Saints then released Smith at the end of the season. Smith signed with the Patriots before the 2014 campaign in an attempted comeback, but he was released before the start of the regular season.
With Daniel Popper