Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-49ers QB Alex Smith named AP Comeback Player of the Year

Feb 6, 2021 at 7:07 PM--

It was a difficult journey back for Alex Smith. The quarterback of the Washington Football Team suffered a horrific leg injury on November 18, 2018. Not only was it career-threatening, but it was life-threatening.

Smith's recovery from the injury was chronicled during an ESPN documentary that aired last offseason, entitled Project 11. It provided an inside look at the quarterback's journey, and what he had to endure as he fought for his life, and later, a return to football. Infections, several surgeries, and a lengthy and challenging rehab stood between Smith and the game he loves.

While many questioned whether Smith would play football again, he proved doubters wrong and stepped back onto the football field against the Los Angeles Rams on October 11, 2020, and then started six games this past season.

Smith finished the season passing for 1,582 yards with six touchdowns and eight interceptions. He was 5-1 as a starter.

On Saturday, the former No. 1 overall pick by the San Francisco 49ers, who had a stop in Kansas City before landing in Washington, was named the AP Comeback Player of the Year.

Heading into the 49ers' Week 14 contest against Washington, head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked about Smith's success.

"I mean, because Alex, he's a very good quarterback," Shanahan told reporters. "He always has been. He knows where to go with the ball, which, to me, is one of the biggest things for any quarterback. You read coverages and stuff, and there's always a spot, there's a hole in it, and you want to get the ball there, and Alex is efficient at doing that as anybody."

Washington ended up beating San Francisco 23-15, but Smith left the game early due to a calf strain.

While Shanahan has never personally spoken with Smith, he has just as much respect for Smith as everyone else in the NFL.

"I did see the [documentary] everyone saw," Shanahan said. "For him to go through what he went through and to still want to come back, it's definitely not a money thing. The guy does alright in that area. It's not something he had to do.

"It shows why he has been successful in everything he's done, showed why he had a great college career, showed why he was a top pick in the draft. It showed why he's helped out three different teams now, and for him to come back and just want to come back after going through that, it shows there's a lot of special things inside that guy."

Smith's resolve even inspired one star player who will play tomorrow in Super Bowl LV.

"Hey, I'm so f--king proud of you, bro," Tampa Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady told Smith after a playoff matchup. "You're f--king unbelievable, you know that? You're an inspiration to all of us. You're unbelievable. Always here if you need me."

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