I remember the day Alex Smith got drafted by the San Francisco 49ers.
I still remember visiting the official website of the 49ers and seeing a banner that read “20 years from now, you’ll remember”.
Taken first overall, Alex had finished his college career at Utah in storybook fashion. In his final year as a Junior, Alex lead the Utes to a undefeated season in becoming the first team to ever officially “bust” the BCS brackets.
In the Fiesta Bowl against Pittsburgh, Alex was named MVP after tossing four touchdowns in a 35-7 rout. That season, Alex was also named the Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year, was named by The Sporting News as the Player of the Year, was a finalist for the Walter Camp (Player of the Year) and Davey O’Brien (QB of the year) awards, and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
The 49ers held the first overall pick for the 2005 Draft and narrowed their selections down to QBs Alex Smith and California’s Aaron Rodgers, Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards and Miami cornerback Antrel Rolle.
Smith was selected and for the next six seasons, both the 49ers and Alex Smith witnessed the very highs and lows that the NFL had to offer.
Alex’s first touchdown pass didn’t come until his 150th pass attempt in a rookie season that saw him fire one touchdown pass to 11 interceptions. In 2006, the 49ers pulled off two improbable road wins at Seattle and Denver late in the season that showed the team was headed in the right direction.
In 2007, Alex suffered a separated right shoulder and despite playing through the pain, he was eventually placed on injured reserve ending his season.
In 2008, the 49ers suddenly had a QB controversy between Alex, Shaun Hill and the newly added J.T. O’Sullivan, who was familiar with the newly hired Mike Martz as the offensive coordinator. Unfortunately, Alex never made it out of the preseason and was placed on injured reserve for continued problems in his throwing shoulder.
After taking a pay cut to stay with the team, Alex backed up Shaun Hill during the 2009 season until Week 7 when the 49ers fell behind 21-0 at Houston. Smith was brought in during the second half and lead a ferocious comeback that fell short, but for Alex, this was a second chance to reclaim his starting job.
Over the course of the next two seasons, Smith saw himself benched for poor play, booed at home on national T.V., and in the midst of controversy as two 49er coaches were fired while Alex remained on the roster.
From 2005 to 2010, Alex Smith went through six different offensive coordinators, two head coaches, and won just 19 of the 50 games he started.
With the hiring of Jim Harbaugh prior to the 2011 season, 49er fans finally saw what they had hoped for all along, that Alex Smith preform to his potential and validate his status as a No. 1 overall pick.
Under Harbaugh, all Alex Smith did, and did well, was win football games, and not turnover the football. Including the playoffs, Smith was 20-6 as the starter and forever cemented his place in 49er playoff-lore when he threw the game winning touchdown pass to Vernon Davis to comeback and beat New Orleans 36-32 in the NFC Divisional playoff game.
49ers fans who have been around long enough to have witnesses these tremendous ups-and-downs still have some fondness for Alex Smith. They grew up with him, lost games with him, got hurt with him, and celebrated with him when he outdueled Drew Brees on that beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon to knockout the Saints from the playoffs.
And it’s the reason why on Sunday Night, before a national T.V. audience in what is being touted as the most highly anticipated game on the season, 49er fans will root for Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs when they take on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.