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Alex Smith Says He’s ‘Really Proud’ To Have Helped Build ‘Up The Program’ At Utah

Utah quarterback Alex Smith scrambles out of the pocket and looks for a receiver downfield. The Utes won the Fiesta Bowl 35 - 7 against the Pittsburgh Panthers in Phoenix, AZ on 1/1/05. (Photo by Gene Lower/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Former Utes and current NFL quarterback Alex Smith said that he’s “really proud” for the part he played in helping build up the University of Utah football program.

Smith discussed his college career at Utah during an interview with the Associated Students of the University of Utah.

“For me, I think, to be a part of, maybe have a sliver of building up the program and the school and helping the U leap into the Pac-12, which was such a big step and to see where they’ve gone, is something that I am really, really proud of,” Smith said.

After he was recruited out of Helix High School in California, Smith helped the Utes to an impressive run during his three seasons in Salt Lake City.

Senior Season

Smith was asked about his senior season and what it meant to win the Mountain West’s Offensive Player of the Year award.

“I never thought I would win it. My last year was just playing,” Smith answered. “There was so much selflessness my last year in school there when we went undefeated and went to the Fiesta Bowl. And I really played that entire year and I think we all did ,you know, not for any single accolades or dreams of going pro. Our dream was to prove that we belonged, that the U belonged with the biggest schools in the country.

Smith continued by detailing the team’s goal to be the first non-power conference school to break through the BCS.

“We wanted to break down the BCS, and to be the first school to do that, and that was our dream. And so for that to come true, was absolutely amazing,” Smith said. “I think certainly anytime you have that kind of team success, a lot of individual accolades follow. And I was fortunate enough to be named Offensive Player of the Year my last year, but certainly, obviously, had great teammates around me… a great coaching staff. It’s so cool to be talking about it in the past tense, you know, that the U has moved on to bigger and better.”

The MUSS

The former Utah great said that he felt that the University’s student section, the Mighty Utah Student Section or MUSS, “got rolling” during his time on campus.

“I felt like when I was in school is kind of when the MUSS got rolling. It was kind of the birth of the MUSS,” Smith said. “What it’s become today is so awesome to see, I think, certainly an envy of the whole country, I think as far as what a student body can be, and their presence at games, and how their energy is felt on the field. So it was so cool to be a part of that on the field.”

Alex Smith’s Utah Utes Career

Smith was an underrated quarterback from Helix High.

After high school graduation, Smith came to Salt Lake City, having accepted a scholarship to play football for the Utes. Although he was from California, the quarterback was familiar with Utah. Smith’s parents had attended nearby Weber State.

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 named Urban Meyer.

“Then we hired this guy named Urban Meyer,” Smith recently said of Meyer. “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 of Smith in 2020. “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.

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 in 2020

Last season, Smith posted a 5-1 record as the starter for the Washington Football Team. He helped Washington win the NFC East and reach the postseason.

Smith finished the year throwing for 1,582 yards, six touchdowns, and eight interceptions.

After the season, Smith was honored as the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year following his return from a 2019 injury.

Alex Smith’s NFL Career

Smith was drafted out of Utah by the San Francisco 49ers with the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

During his career, Smith has played for the 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs, and Washington.

Through 174 career games, Smith has completed 62.6 percent of his throws for 35,650 yards, 199 touchdowns, and 109 interceptions.

He is currently a free agent.

Kyle Ireland is a Locals in the NFL Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Yards After College Podcast. Follow him on Twitter (@kyleireland) and Instagram (@kyleirelandksl).

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