After nearly losing his leg and his life, Alex Smith is back on the football field.

Smith was the #1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft out of the University of Utah.  He is a 14-year NFL veteran, and has played with the 49ers, Chiefs, and Redskins (currently the Washington Football Team).  He is a 3x Pro Bowler and was the NFL passing rating leader in the 2017 season.  He also holds two NFL records: a 158.3 passing rating in Week 15 in 2013 (perfect week), and most passes thrown to start a season without an interception (287 in 2017).

But his life was forever changed on November 18, 2018.  

The Redskins were playing against the Texans, and in the third quarter, Smith was sacked by Kareem Jackson and J.J. Watt.  During the play, Smith suffered a spiral and compound fracture to his tibia and fibula in his right leg.

Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The gruesome injury has drawn many comparisons to former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann’s infamous injury in 1985.  Theismann suffered the same injury in a similar way, and Smith’s occurred 33 years to the day after Theismann’s.  

Theismann needed just one surgery to repair his broken leg, and he retired shortly after.  Smith required 17.

17 surgeries.  

Following his initial injury, Smith developed necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease resulting in the death of some of the body’s soft tissue.  Because of this, he then developed sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition that arises when a person’s body has an extreme reaction when an infection occurs.  It can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and even death.  

He was originally supposed to be discharged from the hospital right before Thanksgiving in 2018, just a week or so after the injury.  Then the infection hit, and it was in his blood.

Smith detailed his experience to Yahoo Sports: “I don’t remember much for a few weeks,” Smith said. “I had quite a few surgeries in a row. … [The] next thing I remember is waking up several weeks later faced with the decision of amputation or limb salvage at that point.”

Doctors told him that amputation above the right knee might be the only option, unless they took urgent action right away.  

Faced with the possibility of amputation, Smith chose to undergo additional surgeries to save his leg.  The doctors started skin grafts, and transfused muscle from his quadriceps in order to save it.

He went through 17 total surgeries, including eight debridements, in four different hospitals over a nine-month span.

After his surgeries concluded, his rehabilitation process began.  He had to wear an external fixation device for nearly a year.

Here is a quick video detailing the process:

Smith’s wife Elizabeth details how he never complained and always kept perspective.  She stated that he told her, “Do you know how many people would love to trade positions with me?  Do you know the things and the blessings we have?  We can’t take it for granted, not even for a minute.”

I mean, if you weren’t an Alex Smith fan before, you 100% are now.  Just incredible stuff. 

Smith’s recovery process has been a grueling one, and it has taken a physical tool on him.  His goal is return to play football in the NFL again, and this weekend, he got a little bit closer to that goal.

The Washington Football Team has announced that Smith has been cleared by all doctors to resume football activities.  He has been removed from the physically unable to perform list and is now on the active roster.

Here is his family celebrating:

The Washington Football Team posted this following Smith’s first day back.  

Over a year and a half since his injury, and against all odds, Alex Smith is playing football again.  

Washington drafted former Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins with their first round selection last year, but new head coach Ron Rivera has stated that Smith will get starter reps, and will get his chance to battle for the No. 1 job.

Joe Theismann told ESPN, “No matter what happens, he’s already won the award for comeback player of the year.”

And I agree.

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