Less than a week after losing his girlfriend, Petara Cordero, Chris Smith suited up with his team Monday night wearing “stay strong” cleats for a atch up against the New York Jets.
The Cleveland Browns' defensive end, who was made the team’s honorary captain Monday night, is now a single father to newborn daughter Haven Harris Smith, who was born in August.
“I am going to play tonight because it is something she would want me to do,” Smith said of his late girlfriend in a statement on Monday (Sept. 16), WKYC reports. “She would want me to keep doing what I love and stay strong. I play for her tonight. She is my why.”
Before the game, Smith posted a photo of Petara in the stadium wearing a team jersey.
“My WHY … #staystrong,” he captioned the pic.
He also shared a photo on his Instagram Story of baby Haven wearing a Cleveland Browns jersey.
Smith’s spokesperson, Deandra Alex, wrote a message on behalf of their families.
“The Cordero and Smith family would like to thank everyone for their thoughtful prayers. Condolences and well wishes. From the bottom of their hearts they are grateful for the tremendous outpouring of love & support,” Alex said in a statement. “At this time they ask for complete privacy as both families take the time needed to grieve the sudden and unexpected loss of their beloved Petara Cordero.”
In the early morning hours of September 11, the couple was traveling on I-90 West in Cleveland when the tire on Smith’s Lamborghini blew out, causing the vehicle to veer left and strike the center median near the West 140th Street exit ramp.
Cordero exited the vehicle and was standing on the north shoulder when she was struck by an oncoming vehicle.
Police identified Tracy McIvor, 47, as the driver of the Mazda that struck Cordero. McIvor confessed to drinking before the accident, but investigators are still waiting on results from a toxicology report to determine if she was within the legal limit or not.
Cordero was pronounced dead shortly after being rushed to Cleveland Clinic Fairview Hospital. She was 26.
“God has a plan for all of us we can’t understand but she is in a better place now and she can rest easy,” Smith wrote on Instagram a few days after Cordero’s death along with multiple photos of her.
“My wifey my best friend and the mother of my beautiful daughter,” he added. “Love you baby.”
(Photo: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)