Tragedy Strikes Embattled Detroit Lions; DE Corey Smith Missing, Feared Dead

Sherman L. McCleskyCorrespondent IMarch 2, 2009

A few weeks ago, this forum was saturated with people writing article about the Detroit Lions. What should they do or not do on draft day? Who should they sign as a free agent? Should the new coaches adapt a new schemes, or stay the status quo? Which players should stay, be released or be traded?

Throughout this time, the comments became heated and bad words were exchanged. For one minute, it'd looked as if every Lions fan, including myself, forgot that this was just a game. That was until today.

Right now, the United States Coast Guard are continuing their search for a fishing boat occupied by Lions' DE Corey Smith, Oakland Raiders' linebacker Marquis Cooper, and two other men, whose names are yet to be released.

Smith and Cooper, former teammates with the Tampa Bay Bucs and longtime friends, set sail this past Saturday on Cooper's 21ft boat. Their mission was to catch the biggest fish. What they ended up catching was the perfect windstorm.

"Coast Guard Capt. Timothy M. Close said the weather early Saturday had been fair but worsened toward the evening as a front still battering the area moved in. The National Weather Service said seas were about two to four feet Saturday morning and increased to three to five feet in the afternoon.

"Late Saturday night, a small craft advisory was issued, when winds were around 20 knots and seas were up to seven feet or more. There were no thunderstorms in the area."

Captain Close explains the dangers of navigating a boat that small, with winds that high.

"A 21-foot boat is a relatively small vessel to be 50 miles off shore in bad weather conditions, certainly the current weather conditions."

The coast guard initially attempted to find the missing boat by air, but the winds were just too high. When they had tried by water, they initially used a 47ft boat; a boat twice the size of the boat owned by Cooper.

The ominous sign became clear, when their powerful 47 ft ship could not handle the crashing 14 ft waves and howling winds. The search that began early Sunday morning had to stop momentarily because the coast guard needed a much bigger ship.

Look, I'm pretty knowledgeable on sea rescues; I'm an expert on exposure to sea water. 45 minutes is time any person has, once they fall into the sea, to get out of the water. After 45 minutes, the body will succumb to hypothermia. Forget the sharks and drowning; hypothermia is the No. 1 cause of death for anyone falling into the sea.

The only hope of survival, when lost at sea, is to hope that the boat itself survived. Right now, it doesn't look good for that 21 ft boat. I have to assume for the moment that the worst has happened and that Corey Smith may had perished at sea.

This comes as Smith came off his most outstanding season at defensive end. His 30 total tackles were up three tackles from last season and 19 more than the season before last. His 25 solo tackles were up four from last season and a amazing 18 more than the season before last.

During his first four seasons, Corey Smith didn't register an assist in a tackle nor a sack; but in the last three seasons, he'd averaged 2.5 sacks per season with 5.25 assists.

Corey Smith was clearly on his way up; it's that fact that makes this story even more tragic. He wanted to play for the Lions, but with a new coaching staff coming in, he felt the need to prepare for the worst, so he wanted to check out the free agency market. 

Smith's agent Ron Del Duca him as being one of the "good guys" of the league; a blue collar worker who wanted to play every game as if was his last...For this Lions faithful, it appears that he may had played his last.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Smith family; I hope and pray that the search does produce a happy ending; for I would be more than happy to be wrong. But in case it doesn't, I want the Smith family to understand that I'd appreciated Corey Smith's contributions to the Lions.

Although the team never won a game this past season, you can tell that he never gave up on the team. And for that I say to his family, thank you for sharing him with us. May GOD bless him and your family.