How “He Hate Me” Got Me To The NFL
Western Kentucky’s Rod Smart, better known as the XFL player called “He Hate Me,” talks about the origins of his name, how it helped him get into the NFL and the legacy of the extinct league’s longest-living trademark (run time is 9:00; transcript below the jump).
Lost Lettermen: This is Jim Weber from LostLettermen.com and I’m joined by Western Kentucky’s Rod Smart, better known as “He Hate Me.” And Rod, thank you for very much for joining us today.
I guess our first questions has to be about the genesis of the name, “He Hate Me,” which is what everyone knows you for.
Rod Smart: Well how it started was in the XFL, which is how it started. It was a new league and I’m a competitor so no matter who it is, I like to compete. I don’t care if it’s a new born baby to an old elderly man or woman. I’m a competitor. If they want to get on the field with me, they shouldn’t do it. Because they’re at a disadvantage.
Mainly, the XFL, that started. Vince McMahon ... it was a new league and at the time I was thinking everyone had equal opportunity. But that wasn’t the case. It was ... politics played a role also. As it does with anything. Even everyday living involves politics. You know a person who knows a person that helps you get a job or gets you to the front of the line for whatever.
So to make a long story short, I would always make comments during practice and stuff (inaudible). So I was always like, “Man, they hate me man.” So that’s kind of how it originated from but it mainly ... what it mainly is saying is, “I’m a competitor.”
I’ll compete against anyone, anywhere, anytime and in my mind, I’m going to win. Plain and simple.
LL: Could you describe when you realized this thing had really taken off and was going to be the mark the XFL left behind?
RS: Actually, like I said, when I did it, I whooped my opponents butt, he was going to hate me. So that’s why, “He Hate Me” stays right now. And after that first week of the first season, I think we opened the season at home in Vegas against the New York/New Jersey Hitmen, everybody loved it.
The next week I was thinking about changing it to something else similar but I didn’t. I ended up keeping it because everybody really enjoyed that name. It’s different and you got some folks that are haters because that’s part of where they’re from. You’re going to have haters everywhere, no matter if you’re one of the good guys or bad guys. Somebody’s not going to like it.
LL: Yeah, now I know when you got to the NFL, everyone had to explain that when you had “Smart” on the back of your jersey, that was, indeed, “He Hate Me.” Did you ever ask, “Hey, can I put ‘He Hate Me’ on the back of my jerseys so everyone knows who I am”? Kind of like a Chad Johnson situation where you change your last name or something?
RS: Well, that’s the only way I would’ve been able to do it. Like Chad Johnson. He had to, you know, he had to do paper work to change his name. So I would have to do that, which I should’ve done for marketing reasons. Jersey sales would’ve skyrocketed. If I could go back and do it, I would.
LL: Is it something you thought about then or you just really didn’t think about it until Chad Johnson did it?
RS: Naw, I really didn’t think about it then. I just used it as kind of a promo thing in the XFL to kind of exhibit myself. It worked, it got me to the NFL, which is where I was trying to get to. So I got what I wanted. After that I wasn’t really trying to ... you know, I wanted to make my name in the NFL as Rod Smart.
LL: Do you think it actually did help you get tot he NFL? Where you were on the radar of scouts and coaches in the NFL?
RS: Yeah it helped even more. Coming out of college, I was a free agent and I did go through the Chargers but I ended up getting cut around training camp. Once I did the XFL, it got me more notoriety. They called me as a running back, as an offensive player, all that stuff.
I came out of a I-AA school. Western Kentucky. Playing for Jack Harbaugh as the head coach. The father of Jim and John Harbaugh. And we ran the option, so they don’t run that in the NFL. So being able to be in a pro style offense in the XFL helped me.
My head coach there was (inaudible). So being in that system allowed me to be a pro running back in a pro style offense. I led the team in catches and rushing and I was second in the league in rushing behind (inaudible). So it showed the league I could play at that level also.
So I ended up going to the Eagles and playing there and playing on special teams. Played with the Panthers, went there and got more involved with special teams. The return guy and all that under (inaudible) and all that but mainly being coached in special teams by Scotty O’Brien, a special teams coach guru. And I had a lot of fun doing that stuff. Wouldn’t change nothing about it.
LL: And last question for you: What was the XFL experience like for you? I know a lot of people think of it as a punchline but I know it helped you get to the NFL.
RS: I think it was my stepping stone to get to the NFL. For me personally, probably for some other players, too. I remember a couple other guys that came to the NFL and that was their ticket to the NFL.
And, honestly, I think they should’ve worked things out and kept that league. I thought about it. It was a pro league and it was in the spring, so it wasn’t battling the NFL. People want year-round football anyway.
So if you keep that league in the spring and the NFL in the fall, it’s year-round football for the fans here in America. Plus I think it outdid NFL Europe because it was right here in the states. So even if you don’t make it to the NFL, you get cut from that, you’ve still got the XFL to fall back on and it’s right here in the states.
So now you have family that can travel and go watch you play in person. Instead of waiting for it to come on TV in another country at whatever hours because the time zone is so different. I think it was better here. I think it was a good thing.
I think they should’ve worked harder basically to keep it.
LL: And one more question I got to ask is what would you think of doing a stage name of “He Hate Me” (in acting)?
RS: Only if it were involving football. But in the acting world I’ll always be Rod Smart. But I’ll always have “He Hate Me” fans and they can call me that until I die. Because I created it. I brought it here and I’m going to take it to the grave with me.