Former SF 49ers QB Alex Smith faces old team after brutal leg injury

Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith (11) Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith (11) Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Former SF 49ers quarterback Alex Smith is making his second start against his old team, and this occasion is a bit more special.

In 2005, the SF 49ers had the top pick in the NFL Draft. Despite having a kid by the name of Aaron Rodgers on the board, the organization decided to take the quarterback from Utah, Alex Smith.

It’s been 15 years since the pick was made and oh boy, has Smith seen it all.

The last time Smith faced San Francisco, he was playing with the Kansas City Cheifs. Both teams were 2-2 and the SF 49ers took the victory on the foot of former kicker Phil Dawson.

Since his appearance in the Bay Area, Smith went on to lead the Cheifs back to the postseason, got traded to the Washington Football Team, and then on Nov. 18, 2018, an incident changed his life forever.

You’ve heard the story already. Smith was dealt a very serious injury which many thought was isolated to his leg. In a scary turn of events, the doctors taking care of Smith were worried about his life.

After close to 20 surgeries, hundreds of hours of rehab, and a strong family backing him up, Smith conquered every obstacle in his way.

On Thanksgiving, Smith and his family celebrated his “Alive Day” which in the military, according to a post by his wife Elizabeth on Instagram, is “a celebration of when a serviceman or woman almost loses their life in combat.” If you didn’t watch the E:60 documentary, Project 11, Smith was rehabbing at The Center for the Intrepid and almost lost his life.

I’ve been a huge fan of Smith ever since he was with the 49ers. For the most part, it was due to having his jersey (it was my first and only SF 49ers jersey up until last year), but as I grew older and started understanding the game better, I developed an appreciation for him.

The 49ers in the mid-2000s were a disaster. It seemed like every year there was either a new offensive coordinator or coach and Smith just couldn’t get into a rhythm. But when the SF 49ers hired Jim Harbaugh as head coach in 2011, the gears started clicking and Smith showed he was a decent quarterback.

Would Rodgers have faired better? Honestly, nobody knows. But the only thing they share is being first-round draft picks, as Smith went to a team that needed help ASAP and Rodgers went to the Green Bay Packers and sat behind NFL legend Brett Favre for a few years. If the picks were different, maybe we’re talking about drafting the kid from Utah rather than the hometown choice.

In his first start back with the Washington Football Team, Smith proved to the world he was back and ready to continue fighting for respect and a playoff spot. He threw 38 completions on 55 attempts with 390 yards.

Washington lost to the Detroit Lions, but the real winner was the Smith family.

Since then, Smith has the Football Team on a three-game winning streak and a real chance for the top spot in the NFC East by the time the regular season is over. He and the Football Team took down the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football, before the 49ers versus the Bills.

And yes, he is throwing dimes still, like this one to tight end Logan Thomas:

As 2020 would have it, the SF 49ers won’t be facing their former quarterback in front of fans nor in the comfy confines of Levi’s Stadium. It was announced no Santa Clara teams could practice or play in the region, forcing the 49ers to move to Arizona.

But it shouldn’t distract from the storyline of Smith returning to face his first NFL team. Many things have changed in the SF 49ers organization since he left. There’s a young stud at quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, longtime offensive lineman and Smith’s former teammate, Joe Staley, retired and the 49ers went to another Super Bowl in 2019.

Many fanbases Smith has played for and has gone against want to see him win the Comeback Player of the Year. In fact, Houston Texans star defensive lineman J.J. Watt tweeted his approval of Smith winning the award.

But in true loyal fashion, New York Jets running back and former teammate of Smith during their time in San Francisco, Frank Gore, also sent his appreciation:

Yes, there will be talk Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger should be in the conversation, and rightfully so. He missed most of 2019 with a serious injury and now has the Steelers tied for an NFL best 11-1 record, which included an 11-game winning streak.

But the fact Smith is playing two years after not even knowing if he’ll be alive again, and has his team in the hunt for the NFC East title and a shot at making some noise in the playoffs… The CPOY should be engraved with his name already.

It’s hard to say if Smith will get his chance to return to the Bay Area as a player after this season. He is getting older, his body is taking a beating every week, and the scheduling will determine when Washington is in San Francisco again.

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No matter what the future holds, Smith should know most of the SF 49ers fan base still supports him and whenever he decides to call it a career, he’ll go down as one of the most inspirational humans the league has ever witnessed.

What’s your favorite Alex Smith memory? Let us know in the comment section!