Alex Smith has had one of the most inspiring comeback stories in recent sports memory. After nearly losing his leg and his life, Smith went through 17 surgeries and a grueling rehabilitation process in order to be where he is today. And where he is today is back in the starting quarterback role for a first place team.
The Washington Football Team defeated the Dallas Cowboys 41-16 yesterday on Thanksgiving to take over first place of the NFC East. Their 4-7 record is less than spectacular, but first place is first place.
Commanding the offense at quarterback, Smith completed 19 of his 26 pass attempts (73.08% CMP), for 149 yards and a touchdown. The win not only brought Washington into first place, but gave Smith his first back-to-back wins as a starting quarterback since October 28, 2018. On November 18, 2018, Smith sustained a gruesome leg injury that forever changed his life.
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.
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.
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.
After spending Thanksgiving 2018 in a hospital bed, wondering if he would even have his leg, fast forward two years to Thanksgiving 2020, and Smith is winning an NFL game as a starting quarterback on national television.
Smith’s first game appearance since his injury occurred in Week 5 of the 2020 season against the Rams, as Smith replaced the injured Kyle Allen. Smith finished with nine completions for 37 yards in a 30-10 Washington loss.
Smith would make an appearance again in Week 9, as Allen was injured once again. Smith completed 75% of his passes for 325 yards, a touchdown, three interceptions, and Washington lost a hard-fought 23-20 game to the Giants.
The following week, Smith made his first start since that October 28th game in 2018. In his first start since the devastating injury, Smith was 38-for-55 for 390 yards and led a Washington comeback that saw them erase a 21-point deficit to the Lions. It was the first time in Smith’s career that he threw for 300+ yards in back-to-back games. After Washington tied the game at 27, the Lions kicked a field goal as time expired to win the game 30-27. Even in defeat, it was a special day for Smith.
The next game against the Bengals saw Smith pick up his first win in 742 days, as Washington defeated Cincinnati 20-9.
“Another step, another thing I never thought I’d be doing again,” Smith said, via ESPN. “It’s one thing to come out and get that first playing time and a whole other deal to play winning football as a starter. It’s amazing to get a win.”
Smith and Washington took that momentum into their Thanksgiving showdown in Dallas against the Cowboys, and handed them a convincing 41-16 defeat. Now, Washington is in first place in the NFC East.
For the season, Smith is completing 69% of his passes for 1,067 yards, 3 TD’s, and 5 INT’s.
Those stats aren’t exactly mind-blowing, but given where he started, and how far he has come, it’s reason to celebrate.
Not only that, but the Washington offense has looked far better with Smith under center.
Smith brings wisdom and experience to his younger teammates, as well as being a steady game-manager for the Washington offense. He is calm and collected, and knows how to handle pressure. That presence can really benefit a young team like Washington, and it is paying off thus far.
What an incredible journey. And it’s not over yet. It is Week 12 and Washington sits atop the NFC East with 5 more games to play in the regular season. Smith and company will be back in action Dec. 6 against the Steelers.
Just give him Comeback Player of the Year right now. He has earned it.
Title Photo: Sam Hodde / Washington Football Team