- In this Thursday edition of Niners Daily, we catch up with a recently-retired San Francisco 49ers star who could be returning to the game soon.*
When Justin Smith decided to hang up his cleats earlier this offseason after 14 standout NFL seasons, the pass-rusher told reporters that he wouldn't stay away from the gridiron for long.
"I'm sure I'll be doing something football related somewhere down the road," Smith said at the time. "I'll just figure out, stick with what I know and stay around the game as much as I can. I don't know if that's coaching... I just imagine whatever it is, it'll be something football related. Strength or strength-room related, something like that."
Well, a few months later, it appears as if Smith plans to follow through on his retirement plans.
In a recent NFL.com article, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said that Smith is considering joining the school's coaching staff as a strength assistant.
"I think he wants to get involved in the weight room a little bit with our players and help us out," Pinkel told Chase Goodbread on Wednesday at SEC Media Days in Alabama. "That would be great if he can do that. He would be a tremendous asset to us."
Smith played three years at Missouri from 1998-2000, and in his last collegiate season he tallied a team-high 81 tackles and 11 sacks. The following spring, the Cincinnati Bengals selected him with the No. 4 overall pick.
"Cowboy," as Smith became affectionately known, was born in Jefferson City, Mo., and is reportedly building a ranch in nearby Columbia. All of those factors considered, it makes sense for Smith to return to his alma mater, especially in the weight room with a relatively limited role to begin.
"We'd love to have him come back," Pinkel said. "I talked to Andy Hill, who recruited him, our quarterback coach, and we'll see."
If Smith does dive into coaching, it would be interesting to see if he eventually tries his hand in the NFL, where a reunion with the 49ers could occur.
First-year coach Jim Tomsula hired another of his former players, Aubrayo Franklin, as a defensive assistant in January.