Alex Smith started playing football from a young age and turned down recruitment offers from Harvard and Princeton and instead attended the University of Utah as a quarterback. He began his NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers, then went to play for the Kansas City Chiefs, and later on Washington. Two years ago in a game against the Houston Texans, Smith sustained a compound spiral fracture to his right leg (from his ankle through his knee) after he was tackled by two Texans defensive linemen. Although doctors successfully treated the bone fractures, a bacterial infection soon developed and led to sepsis. The most “obvious” course of action at that point would have been an amputation, but Smith insisted that the doctors do whatever they could to save his leg.
Part of his inspiring recovery includes not just sheer will and determination to endure and recuperate from several more surgeries to cut away a lot of muscle and tissue from his right calf (and a procedure to cover his bones with muscle from his left thigh), but also getting permission from the Pentagon to be seen by specialists at the Center for the Intrepid, which was built to treat soldiers with serious injuries. Many of the service members sustained trauma to their legs that were very similar anatomically to Smith, so it was the best place to receive expert assessment for rehabilitation.
If I had followed the NFL with any amount of regularity in the last few years, Alex Smith’s name and story would’ve been familiar. Alas, I did not, so I’d only learned of his existence tonight on 60 Minutes.
Norah O’Donnell spoke with Alex about his experiences coming back from an injury that would’ve diverted, if not ended, most athletes’ game-playing careers. Read the segment transcript and watch video clips here.
ESPN also made a special piece about him.
Here’s an interview:
Here’s the first play Alex Smith made after rejoining Washington:
That he got to keep his leg, that he perservered through thousands of hours of physical therapy, that he was able to play for the NFL again surely means that he’s already spent a lifetime allotment of good fortune and second chances, right? As much as he’s realized how much he took for granted his corporeal health and integrity, it doesn’t seem like Alex Smith is going to stop playing professional football any time soon. He’s just a few years younger than I am; by the end of this month, I’ll have been alive for four decades. Quoi?! Je ne me sens pas comme une personne qui aura quarante ans. Mon dieu.
Is it my imagination or does Alex Smith and Niall Matter look like doppelgangers of each other?
Pic cred: 60 Minutes