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SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 9: Quaterback Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up against the Indianapolis Colts before his first start at an NFL game at Monster Park on October 9, 2005 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
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Alex Smith: What a Career

(Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

The title of this can be deceiving but is not meant to be that way.

Many times the phrase “what a career” is described for those athletes that played at the highest level for the longest amount of time and may end up in the GOAT conversation.

That is not the case here but still, Alex Smith, what a career.

Back in 2005 there was a lot of talk around the San Francisco and the number one pick. The 49ers needed a quarterback and everyone knew it. They were going to take one, but who would they decide on, Alex Smith or Aaron Rodgers? San Francisco ultimately landed on Alex Smith. When you go first overall, expectations can become so overwhelming for that pick.

After all in San Francisco you have to live up to names like Joe Montana and Steve Young at that position but other legends too like Jerry Rice, Bill Walsh and many more. Super Bowl or bust for a franchise that was coming off an amazing run in the 80’s and a Super Bowls in ’90 and ’95.

When Smith got to San Francisco the team wasn’t very good. They slowly worked him into the mix in year one and then started him every game of his second season.

Three of the next 4 years were spent in and out of the lineup with varying results. Not enough wins, games missed due to injury including an entire season and Alex was even getting booed at home. This partnership wasn’t working all the while Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were thriving.

This was a difficult time for Alex and for the 49ers. What would become symbolic of his career, Alex would bounce back. In 2011 the San Francisco 49ers put together a great season. They went (13-3) and had a home playoff game against the Saints. Smith was good this season and really good in the win over the Saints when he put up 299 yards, 3 touchdowns through the air and one on the ground.

This was his “moment” as a San Francisco 49er.

The 49ers would lose the next week but that wouldn’t stop Alex Smith from trying to carry this organization back to the heights that it was used to. In 2012 the 49ers were (6-2-1) when Smith got hurt against the Rams.

Little did anyone know how that injury would change the career path for Smith. Smith went out, Colin Kaepernick went in and would never come out. Smith never played again for San Francisco. He supported Kaepernick as a teammate and did what he could to help the team. The team made it to the Super Bowl and lost while Alex watched and contemplated his next move.

What was next a change of scenery. Smith went to the AFC and joined Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs. Smith now was experienced; he had the battle scars to prove it and he had a coaching staff that believed in him. Smith would thrive in Kansas City.

In three of his five seasons he made the Pro Bowl. They were regulars to the post-season only to fall short every time. While they loved him in Kansas City they also moved up in the draft in 2017 to select Patrick Mahomes.

The move was curious at the time but once Mahomes got a chance to shine you could tell that he was special. Now Kansas City had to move on from Alex Smith.

Smith jumped back to the NFC to play for Washington. Smith started and played the first 10 games in DC but then the injury happened. This was not just some ordinary injury. This compound fracture with complications from an infection nearly cost Alex Smith his leg and almost cost him his life. Football was an afterthought.

Could he survive, what kind of life could he lead? He was a husband and father that needed to be around for his most important team.

That team combined with an incredible group of doctors and nurses went to work and so did Alex. The lengthy recovery had to be taxing and all encompassing. Improvements here and there and then there was actual talk of a comeback.

This seemed beyond impossible.

Smith returned to the football field this year and was in uniform and took snaps in a game. He then started games and helped get Washington into the postseason. This will go down as one of the more amazing feats in sports history. It is inspiring and just flat out awesome. Alex Smith retired on Monday with 99 career wins, a winning percentage of 62%, 35, 560 yards and 199 touchdowns.

His final accomplishment of returning from the leg injury is by far his shining moment.

Alex Smith will not go down as the greatest quarterback every but he will be remembered for how he did play, how he overcame adversity on and off the field and how sometimes athletes can be inspiring to many in different ways.

Alex Smith, what a career.