John M. Smith, the New England Patriots "Rookie of the Year" in 1974, never touched an American football until he was 21 years old! So, how could he obtain this achievement, lead the NFL in scoring in 1979 and 1980 and become an NFL All-Pro Player in 1980? Actually John could have turned pro in soccer at age 16, but did not want to give up the chance to complete his education. Born in Oxfordshire, England, John attended the University of Southampton and King Alfreds College in Winchester, England and there obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Education degree with Honors.
To gain teaching experience, John came to the United States from England in the summers of 1970-72 and developed soccer programs at two different summer camps in western Massachusetts. The Patriots heard of Johns' kicking ability and invited him to a tryout in May, 1973. He liked the idea and the Pats liked him, but he had never played American football - so he ended up learning the game in a season with the New England Colonials of the Atlantic Coast League, where he kicked 35 Extra Points in 35 attempts!
With the Pats in 1974, John scored 90 points (4th leading scorer in the NFL), and 42 out of 43 Extra Points (2nd in the NFL). Besides bring Rookie of the Year, John was awarded the game ball for play against the LA Rams, and the Coca-Cola Award as Player of the Week against the Miami Dolphins.
In 1979, John emerged as one of the most dependable placekickers in the league. Coming back from a torn leg muscle which sidelined him for most of 1978, John wound up as the league's leading scorer with 115 points. That total was also an all-time Patriots high, beating the 111 amassed by kicking coach (and longtime Patriots start) Gino Cappelletti. John scored in 60 consecutive games and scored in all but one of his 75 games as a Patriot.
1980 also proved a successful year for John, as he again was leading scorer for the Patriots. He also was recognized by the NFL as an All Pro Player and played in the Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Accolades aside, John Smith will perhaps be forever known as the placekicker in the Patriots first "snowbowl". In 1982, in a snowstorm game against the Miami Dolphins, John kicked the winning field goal (and only score of the game) to beat the Dolphins. Just as John was getting ready to kick, an ex-con Mark Henderson, who was out on work release, drove his snowblower across the field, to clear the snow for the spot of the ball. The kick was good and the Patriots beat the Dolphins 3-0!
john_smith21smJohn stopped playing in 1983 and created a soccer business in the meantime. John is still very active in the New England Patriots Alumni Association and makes it to almost every home game, where he is still recognized for the first "snow kick" in Patriots history.
John is very active in running his summer soccer camps, indoor sports center in Milford, MA and has just developed a new soccer club, JSSA Magic, that keeps him on the soccer field every night! John has been married to his wife, Vivienne, for 38 years. Together, they have 4 children, Felicity, a soccer coach, Nicola, a pediatrician, Martin, a software engineer, and Victoria, a defense attorney, and 4 grandchildren, Olin, Hillary, Caiden and Mia. John and Vivienne spend time between their homes in Dover, MA and Hilton Head, SC.