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Former Charges GM AJ Smith died on Sunday after a yearslong battle with cancer. Courtesy photo
Former Charges GM AJ Smith died on Sunday after a yearslong battle with cancer. Courtesy photo
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Former Chargers GM AJ Smith dies at 75

SAN DIEGO — A.J. Smith, former San Diego Chargers general manager, died today at 75.

After a seven-year battle with prostate cancer, Smith passed away on Sunday in the company of his loved ones, according to a family statement.

Smith spent 35 years in the National Football League, rising through the ranks from part-time scout to general manager. During his tenure with the Chargers from 2003-12, Smith became the most successful GM in the franchise’s history, raking in 98 wins over 10 seasons and five division titles.

“Belying a tough, matter-of-fact and no nonsense persona — one synonymous with that of a true football guy — was A.J.’s softer side, which included a tremendous love for his family, the NFL and the Chargers,” Chargers owner Dean Spanos said in a statement.

Smith’s crowning achievement may have been the 2004 NFL Draft, when the Chargers had the No. 1 pick and selected Eli Manning, who had said before the draft that he did not want to play for the team. Smith then traded Manning to the New York Giants for the quarterback he actually wanted — Philip Rivers, who was picked fourth overall.

In addition, the Giants also had to give Smith a pair of selections in that same draft, which he used to take future Pro Bowlers Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding.

Albert J. Smith was born on Feb. 28, 1949, in Smithfield, Rhode Island.

Smith served as an assistant coach at Cranston High School West, in Rhode Island, from 1971 to 1976 before serving as head coach of the Rhode Island Kings of the Eastern Football League in 1976 and later as an assistant coach at the University of Rhode Island in 1978.

In addition to coaching, Smith also played semi-professional football for the Attleboro Kings of the EFL as a wide receiver from 1972 to 1974. He was given a tryout with the Washington Redskins in 1974, but a contract was not offered.

Smith was a scout and executive for the Buffalo Bills for 14 years. While there, the team won four consecutive AFC championships but, infamously, failed to win a single Super Bowl.

According to a family statement, Smith is survived by his wife, Susan, son Kyle, daughter Andrea, and three grandchildren. Kyle followed in his father’s footsteps and is currently the vice president of player personnel for the Atlanta Falcons.

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