Former USC football standout Tody Smith, a member of the Trojans' famed 1969 defensive line known as "The Wild Bunch" and younger brother of NFL Hall of Famer Bubba Smith, died early Sunday in his sleep in Los Angeles at the age of 50.
Cause of death is unknown.
Smith played two seasons for the Trojans, teaming with Al Cowlings, Jimmy Gunn, William "Bubba" Scott and Charlie Weaver to form "The Wild Bunch," which helped lead USC to a 10-0-1 record and No. 3 ranking after a victory over Michigan in the 1970 Rose Bowl.
"I was the backfield coach at the time and I thought that I was coaching him because he was in our backfield as much as our running backs in practice," former USC coach Craig Fertig said Monday. "I know Cowlings may dispute this, but Tody was the leader of that bunch."
Before transferring to USC, Smith played two seasons at Michigan State. He left after helping organize a race protest.
After finishing at USC, Smith was drafted in the first round by Dallas in 1971 and played six years in the NFL with the Cowboys (1971-72), Houston Oilers (1973-76) and Buffalo Bills (1976). He played on Dallas' 1972 Super Bowl VI champions.
Smith, whose playing weight was over 300 pounds, had lost 85 pounds over the last year and was close to finalizing a deal for a movie about USC's game at Alabama in 1970, which many regard as the turning point in opening the door for African American athletes to play for Southern universities.
"When [Tody] walked in a room, he totally lit it up," said Smith's wife, Cha'e. "He was a good Christian man who always cared about other people more than himself."
Smith is survived by his daughter, Rheo, 11, and son, Dakota, 7.
"[Before he died] he was so happy because we both had good news," Cha'e Smith said. "I got good news [with an acting role in a commercial] but it wasn't nearly as good as his. But, all he kept saying was that he was happier for me than himself."
Services are pending.