Rivers of tears gave way to streams of laughter, grief-stricken walks to youth foot races, and comforting hugs for the mourning to cheerful embraces of greeting.
The Friday visitation of former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith, hosted by his family and the Saints at the team's indoor practice facility on Airline Drive in Metairie, provided a chance for comforting, reflection, celebration and remembrance of Smith, a first-round draft pick in 2004 who remained a Saint through 2012.
Smith, 34, was killed April 9.
With photo, video, floral and game tributes to Smith as a backdrop, his family (including wife Racquel and their three children), Saints owner Tom Benson and his wife Gayle, former Saints teammates, Saints coaches and front office personnel, and fans made a counter-clockwise circle around items that served as reminders of Smith the family man, player and team leader.
The Super Bowl XLIV banner, which alphabetically lists each player on that team, singularly had Smith's name in lights.
Lockers with jerseys and equipment from the three teams for which he played – Proctor High in Utica, N.Y., Ohio State University and the Saints – strategically were placed at the ends and midpoint of one goal line.
Flowers aligned the roped off area of the field that fans were allowed to enter, walk around and exit, and during the walk all could stop and see the video tribute to Smith – standout plays, charitable events, portraits with his family.
With an Alicia Keys soundtrack playing in the background – briefly interrupted by a spirited, solo trumpet rendition of "When The Saints Go Marching In" by Frank Moran of Bridge City – Smith's wife and children were escorted by family members to each display, emotions pouring from many during the stops at each memorial.
Many of his Saints teammates came to pay their respects as well, including Cameron Jordan, Zach Strief, Marques Colston, Steve Gleason, Malcolm Jenkins, Lance Moore, Jonathan Vilma, Reggie Bush, Jabari Greer, Charles Grant, Sedrick Ellis, Darren Sproles, Jon Stinchcomb, Fred Thomas, Aaron Brooks, Roman Harper, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Robert Meachem, Benjamin Watson, Jonathan Goodwin, Senio Kelemente, Josh Hill, Glenn Foster, Michael Lewis, Pierre Thomas, Jermon Bushrod and Donté Stallworth.
The New Orleans Saints hosted a public visitation honoring the late Will Smith on Friday, April 15. Photos by Layne Murdoch Jr. New Orleans Saints photos.