Fan returns Roquan’s Smith TD ball: ‘I knew I had to give it back’ originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
In the heat of the moment, Roquan Smith regretted tossing the football to a fan in the stands.
The Bears linebacker had just scored his first touchdown since high school – a pick-6 off of Joe Burrow – in Sunday’s 20-17 win over the Bengals. After running through the end zone, he locked in on a fan and tossed the ball to him.
“In the moment, I wish I would have kept it, but I'm sure it made his year,” Smith said after the game.
When asked if he would try to get it back, Smith said: “Nah. I'll just keep the jersey and I'll keep the memory. I'm sure the guy that got the ball, I'm sure he'll enjoy it, so if I can make his day, I'm fine with that.”
Stuck in traffic driving home, that fan – Courtney Fong, a season-ticket holder in his 40s from Northbrook – started to get texts from friends who had heard what Smith said in his postgame press conference. His friends knew he had the ball because Fong was shown celebrating with the football on the FOX broadcast.
“I knew right away I had to give it back because that was special,” Fong said on The Hoge & Jahns Podcast Tuesday morning. “He kind of regretted it. He was trying to be gracious -- he was gracious for it -- and at that moment I knew, just trying to figure out what to do next.”
Through various channels, the message got to the Bears and Fong will visit Halas Hall Tuesday to return the ball to Smith. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 protocols, Smith won’t be able to meet with Fong directly, but the Bears have plans to make that up to him once the protocols are over.
Fong’s season tickets are actually in a different area of Soldier Field, but he bought the front row seats in the end zone as a wedding present for his friend who recently got married. That ended up putting him in the right place at the right time.
“(Smith) crosses the goal line and you know it's done. He's got all the energy. We lock eyes and he sees me and, like he said, in the exchange, the excitement of the moment, he tossed it to me,” Fong said. “I was down there, reaching over, and it's not like I didn't want the ball so it was really cool when he gave it to me and they went off to celebrate. Just some euphoria there of receiving it that way.”
Fong said the experience was even better because it was the first time all the fans were back at Soldier Field for a regular season game since the 2019 season.
“A lot of high-fives, people wanting to touch the ball and it was a really neat experience to share with all of us again, because we haven't had fans together in so long so it was just another cool thing,” he said.
And he never thought twice about getting the ball back to Smith.
“It's not about whatever stuff it is, it's just about, hey, this is a major accomplishment in anyone's life. If someone had one of my trophies somewhere, I would hope that we'd be able to share it too so I'm just happy to help him out,” Fong said. “I'll give it to him until Canton wants it because, I mean, his career trajectory -- he's going to be one of our linebackers hopefully for a very long time.”