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Alex Smith’s College Career As Utah Utes Quarterback Highlighted In ESPN Documentary

Utah quarterback Alex Smith pitches the ball. The Utes won the Fiesta Bowl 35 - 7 against the Pittsburgh Panthers in Phoenix, AZ on January 1, 2005 (Photo by Gene Lower/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – ESPN’s E:60 documentary, “Project 11,” highlighted current Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith’s college career as the signal-caller for the Utah Utes.

The documentary, which also detailed a brutal 2018 leg injury suffered by Smith during a game, aired on ESPN on Friday, May 1.

Interviews from Smith, former Utah football head coach Urban Meyer, and others were featured during the hour-long special that showcased the QB’s rise to greatness during his time at the University of Utah.

Alex Smith’s Utah Utes Career

Smith was an underrated quarterback from Helix High School in Southern California.

“I was such a late bloomer. I don’t even think I was ranked as far as recruiting goes,” Smith said.

After high school graduation, Smith came to Salt Lake City, having accepted a scholarship to play football for the Utes.

During his first season with Utah, the freshman quarterback only saw playing time in a couple of games. The team finished the year with a losing record and former Utah head coach Ron McBride and his staff were let go.

Utah replaced McBride with an up-and-coming head coach from Bowling Green. His name was Urban Meyer.

“Then we hired this guy named Urban Meyer,” said Smith. “I’d never heard of him.”

Smith got to know his new head coach pretty quickly.

“He’s intense,” Smith added. “I think he kinda wanted to come in and see what he had.”

Meyer recalled analyzing his new quarterback going into the 2003 season.

“Alex was real skinny and not very athletic at the time,” Meyer said. “A decent thrower, but not a great player.”

The new Utes head coach said that during spring football practices he noticed that something was different about Smith.

“It took him a while to just play cause he wanted to be perfect,” recounted Meyer. “You started to see… that there was something special there.”

Smith started 10 games for Utah during his sophomore season in 2003. The Utes finished with a 10-2 and their first outright conference title since 1957.

Meyer and Smith looked to continue that success in the following season.

“Urban Meyer was building a name for himself and Alex Smith was becoming a nationally known figure,” ESPN’s Chris Fowler said. “It was still difficult to believe that maybe Utah could be one of the best teams in the country. That their quarterback could be one of the best players in the country.”

During his junior season, Smith led the Utes to an undefeated season, another Mountain West Conference championship, and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Pittsburgh.

He threw for 2,952 yards and 32 touchdowns while adding 10 more TDs on the ground. The combination of stats and records led him to a spot as a Heisman Trophy finalist.

“I don’t think many people understand this about Alex Smith, he’s one of the toughest human beings I’ve ever been around,” Meyer said. “I kept thinking, ‘If that guy can’t play quarterback in the NFL, I’ll never have one.'”

Alex Smith’s NFL Career

Smith completed his undergraduate degree early and enter the 2005 NFL Draft following his junior season. He was selected by the San Francisco 49ers with the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

“His athletic ability… he jumped off the charts,” recalled former San Francisco offensive coordinator and current Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy.

Since then he’s played for the Niners, Kansas City Chiefs, and Washington Redskins. Prior to being traded to Kansas City, Smith reached Super Bowl XLVII as a member of the 49ers.

After five seasons with the Chiefs, he was traded to the Redskins.

In 2018, his first season with Washington, Smith passed for 2,180 yards with a 62.5 completion percentage. He threw 10 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in 10 games before going out with a brutal injury.

Through 166 career games, Smith has completed 62.4 percent of his throws for 34,068 yards, 193 touchdowns, and 101 interceptions.


The “Project 11” documentary is available on-demand via ESPN+.

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