After completing one of the most remarkable comebacks in sports history, Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year at the ninth annual NFL Honors ceremony on Feb. 6. Smith received 49 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league.
Smith made his return to football this past season after missing nearly two years following a life-threatening leg injury he suffered in November 2018. The quarterback required 17 surgeries to repair his leg and was forced to wear an external fixator for around 10 months during his recovery.
— NFL (@NFL) February 7, 2021
Smith had to overcome doubts – his own as well as those of others.
“You know obviously that was a big part of my initial part of my rehab when I wasn’t even really thinking about football at that point, way more concerned with everyday life and tasks, and things,” he said. “And obviously fortunate enough it did progress to the point where when I started to think about football, it still seemed distant for a long long time.
“As I worked toward that it was a complex thing, trying to figure out bracing that would best work to try to play quarterback. It literally came up for this summer when I finally got the go-ahead that my bone had healed enough that I could attempt it.
“But even then I think it was hard for a lot of people to digest that I wanted to do this, that I wanted to attempt this. I did get a lot of pushback throughout the entire process. Why was I doing this? This was crazy. There were definitely periods throughout the entire two years of setbacks and when I really would doubt anything like this was possible.”
Smith’s journey has become an inspiration for others in the league.
“It is humbling when I hear that,” Smith said. “I know for how long I spent thinking about and looking at the men and women who inspired me. I am stuck in the hospital bed, stuck in a wheelchair, spent countless hours googling and looking at videos of our service men and women going through the same rehab as I went through.
“So there were definitely people in front of me that I am so thankful for that allowed me to go down this path. And obviously I am humbled and I guess you hope that you can kind of be a link in that chain for anybody coming behind you.”
After making the 53-man roster out of training camp, Smith’s first action this season came in Week 5 against the Los Angeles Rams. The quarterback would take over as Washington’s starter in Week 10, and the club responded by win four of its next five games, including victories over the then-undefeated Steelers and reigning NFC champion 49ers.
A bone bruise in his right surgically repaired leg kept him sidelined for three of the team’s final four games, but his impact on Washington this past season cannot be understated. Smith went 5-1 as a starter in 2020; Washington arguably would not have made the playoffs without him.
Smith was earlier voted NFL Comeback Player of the Year by Sporting News. Sporting News surveyed several NFL players for their award; the winners were not based on the staff’s opinion. The honor was not unanimous, but over 90 percent of players that voted chose the Washington passer for the award.
The 36-year-old has yet to decide whether he wants to play football again in 2021, but he’s under contract with Washington if he chooses to do so.
Smith started for the Chiefs from 2013-17 before they traded him to Washington during the 2018 offseason. If Smith can return to starting prominence, it would go down as one of the greatest comebacks of all time.
The Alex Smith Foundation is widely recognized as one of the most outstanding professional athlete charitable organizations in the nation. Smith’s foundation provides kids who have grown up in the foster care system a chance at college and support in transitioning to young adulthood.
–Lee Hartman | Metro Voice