“Tough. Physical. Durable. Hard-working. Dedicated. Selfless. Justin embodies each of those qualities and brought even more with him to work each and every day,” said 49ers CEO Jed York. “Whether it was chasing down a wide receiver and forcing a fumble to seal a win, or driving a tackle back into the quarterback’s chest, he gave everything he had every play. Justin has earned the respect of the entire NFL community and he will always be remembered as one of the 49ers all-time greats.”
“Justin is the consummate professional whose impact on this organization can never be measured by statistics alone,” said 49ers general manager Trent Baalke. “His durability, competitiveness, work ethic, strength and rare stamina helped set him apart over his 14-year career. Cowboy will go down as one of the best to ever wear a 49ers uniform and his candidness, work ethic and pure passion for the game will be missed. We wish the very best for him and his family!”
“As a football coach, you will always be searching for the next Justin Smith, knowing full well you will never find a player quite like him,” said 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula. “Everybody knows about his toughness, durability, and instincts, but his greatest attribute does not get the attention it deserves. Justin never concerned himself with personal accomplishments, his unselfish nature made that impossible. People like to say ‘they broke the mold with him’ but there was never a mold. Justin Smith is a hand-crafted football player.”
The Cincinnati Bengals took Smith with the fourth overall pick in the 2001 Draft out of Missouri, and the 49ers signed him in 2008 when he became an unrestricted free agent.
Smith, 35, was a three time All-Pro player from 2011-2013. He finished his career with 1,370 tackles, 87 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries, three interceptions and 30 passes defended. He also posted at least 5 sacks in 12 of his 14 professional seasons.