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DeVonta Smith Puts Tragedy Aside, Excels vs. Chargers

The Eagles' rookie WR credited his teammates and people inside the team's training facility to help him get through an emotional week

PHILADELPHIA – DeVonta Smith played Sunday with a broken heart.

His best friend and former roommate at the University of Alabama, Henry Ruggs, killed a young girl and her dog in a car crash in which Ruggs allegedly was driving in excess of 150 miles an hour while intoxicated at twice the legal limit in Nevada and carrying a loaded gun.

“First off, my heart breaks for everybody involved, the family of the young lady that lost her life,” said Smith shortly after the Eagles lost, 27-24, to the Los Angeles Chargers at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.

“It was rough at the beginning, but just coming in every day and being with the guys, they kind of gathered with me and helped me out a lot. At the beginning of the week, it was tough, but eventually, the guys helped me get through it.”

Smith was able to separate the real-life situation from his job and made several big plays in the defeat.

He ended with five catches on six targets for 116 yards and a touchdown. It was the rookie’s second game over 100 yards and his first touchdown since the season opener in Atlanta.

MORE: Eagles Remain Winless at Home, Fall 27-24 to Chargers as Defense Falters

“Obviously, I have a lot of love for DeVonta,” said quarterback Jalen Hurts. “Love him like a brother. I have a lot of love for Henry Ruggs as well. I love him like a brother, a Bama brother. 

"It’s tough for all of us to experience what we experienced this week, how tragic of a situation it was. We’re warriors and we all see it through. I think DeVonta made some big-time plays and he’ll continue to do that for us.”

Smith’s 28-yard touchdown, with 6:07 left in the game, tied the score at 24-24. He caught the ball at the 7 then outraced L.A. safety Nasir Adderley to the corner of the end zone.

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The Eagles never got the ball back, though, as the Chargers drove 64 yards in 6:05, using 15 plays, to set up a chip shot field goal for Dustin Hopkins, who made a 24-yard boot with two seconds to go to account for the final score.

“It kind of gave me a bigger purpose just going out there, playing for my brother, knowing that he can’t play right now,” said Smith. “So, it kind of gave me a bigger purpose to go out there.”

Smith said he and Ruggs have communicated since the tragedy.

“We discussed everything,” said Smith. “He’s in good spirits. I’m just glad that he’s himself, and that he’s gotten himself together, and he’s not just down on himself.

“Once I got on the field, it kind of went away. I knew I had a task at hand. I had to focus on football. So once I got on the field, it kind of got away.”

Smith said he leaned on everybody inside the team’s training facility to help get him through the emotions he was feeling.

“Everybody was there for me,” he said. “Everybody lifted me up. The whole team. Once you walk on the field, everything that isn’t football just goes out the window, honestly. It’s like you have another headspace out there, and that’s what you focus on.”

Smith was coming off a difficult two-game stretch where he struggled with some drop issues. He had none this time.

For the season, the rookie is on pace to become break the team’s rookie record for receiving yards that has stood since DeSean Jackson put up 912 in 2008. He’s also on track, with eight games left, to become the Eagles’ first WR to go over 1,000 yards since Jeremy Maclin in 2014.

Smith has 38 receptions for 537 yards. 

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.