Former Ute Alex Smith nearly swept the voting for The Associated Press 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.
Just getting on the practice field was a victory for Smith. Leading Washington to the playoffs? The stuff dreams are made of, perhaps.
The 36-year-old University of Utah alumnus and first-overall 2005 draft pick completed a remarkable comeback from a broken right leg that required 17 surgeries to repair. Smith stepped in to start eight games this season before a strained right calf in the same leg sidelined him for the postseason spot he helped the team secure.
But Smith had overcome the doubts — and doubters.
“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.”
1️⃣ unbelievable comeback pic.twitter.com/lApEMRAMT4
— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) February 7, 2021
It was so possible that Smith nearly swept the voting for The Associated Press 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year award. Smith received 49 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league.
Everyone across the league cited Smith as an inspiration.
“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 servicemen 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.”
The other vote went to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had a strong season coming off right elbow surgery that ended his 2019 season in Week 2.