By Larry Fine
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Deep threat Torrey Smith overcame a family tragedy this season to help fuel the Baltimore Ravens offense in their run to the Super Bowl and he credits fellow receiver Anquan Boldin with helping him.
The 24-year-old Smith's younger brother, Tevin, was killed in a motorcycle accident less than 24 hours before Baltimore's game against the New England Patriots in Week Three.
Smith left the team to be with his family, but rejoined the Ravens in time for warm-ups and caught a pair of touchdown passes and gained 127 yards receiving in an inspired effort in Baltimore's 31-30 victory.
"I can't believe my little brother is gone ... be thankful for your loved ones and tell them you love them … this is the hardest thing ever," Smith tweeted after the game.
Smith, whose blazing speed makes him a perfect long-range target for rifle-armed quarterback Joe Flacco, said 10-year veteran Boldin had been a big help to him.
"He's been a great mentor both on and off the field," Smith said. "I'm thankful to be paired up with him."
Boldin, in his third season with the Ravens after seven with the Arizona Cardinals that included an appearance in the 2009 Super Bowl, is known as a precise route runner and a physical receiver able to out battle defenders for the ball.
The three-time Pro Bowl receiver took Smith under his wing.
"I've just been there for him," said Boldin, 32. "He's like my little brother. He comes to me for a lot of advice on and off the field and I try to help him out as much as I can."
This season Smith has caught 49 passes with an average gain of 17.4 yards and scored eight touchdowns. In Baltimore's double-overtime playoff victory over the Denver Broncos, Smith caught touchdown passes covering 32 and 59 yards.
Smith has used Boldin's guidance to make the most of his natural gifts.
"Anquan is the definition of a professional," the young receiver said.
"Anytime you can play with a pro like that, that's been in the league a long time, accomplished great things and is a great route runner...fits me perfectly because I needed to learn how to run routes better to be a better pro.
"And he's a great man. A great father, a religious man and to be matched up with a guy like that has helped me out a lot."
Smith's success catching long throws from Flacco has opened things up underneath and across the middle for Boldin, who has thrived this postseason with 16 catches for 276 yards and three touchdowns.
When the Ravens take the Superdome field on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers with the NFL title on the line, Smith said he would still be thinking of family.
"Every game I play, I play for my family," Smith said. "My brother and sisters, my mom, my grandma. That's my rock."
(Editing by Gene Cherry)