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Alex Smith announces his retirement after 16-season NFL career

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Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith (11) in action during the NFL game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Philadelphia. Smith, the former University of Utah quarterback who was taken No. 1 overall in the 2005 NFL draft, has retired, he announced Monday morning.

Chris Szagola, Associated Press

Alex Smith’s pro football career has come to an end after 16 NFL seasons with three different teams.

The former University of Utah quarterback who was the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL draft announced on Instagram Monday morning that he is retiring.

“Even though I’ve got plenty of snaps left in me, after 16 years of giving this game everything I’ve got, I can’t wait to see what else is possible,” Smith said in the Instagram video. “But first, I am going to take a little time to enjoy a few of those walks with my wife, and my kids have no idea what’s coming for them in the backyard.” 

Smith’s career, which included him recovering from an injury that nearly cost him his leg in 2018 and earning the 2020 AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year honor, comes to a close with him throwing for 35,650 yards, 199 touchdowns and 109 interceptions. He went 99-67-1 as a starter while playing for San Francisco, Kansas City and Washington.

“Two years ago, I was stuck in a wheelchair staring down at my mangled leg wondering if I’d ever be able to go on a walk with my wife again or play games with my kids in the yard,” Smith said. “Putting my helmet back on was the farthest thing from my mind.

“I kept asking myself: ‘All this for a stupid game?’ But then someone did something that changed my recovering completely: He put a football back in my hands. I don’t know what it was, but all of the sudden I felt stronger, more driven and what once seemed impossible began to come into focus.”

Smith, who started the 2020 season as Washington’s third-string quarterback, eventually got his chance to return to the field last year less than two years after that devastating leg injury and helped Washington make the playoffs in one of the most inspirational moments of his career. When Smith took over the starting role full time, he led the team to a 5-1 record during his starts and helped Washington reach the postseason by winning the NFC East division title.

In March, Smith was released by Washington. Ironically enough, Smith said he took the chance to explore reuniting with his coach at Utah, Urban Meyer, who’s now the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, before ultimately deciding it was time to retire.

“I wanted to do my due diligence even though I was leaning toward retirement,” Smith told ESPN. “I wanted to marinate in it a little bit. I wanted to see what was out there, and I’m happy I did.”

Meyer led the Utes to a 22-2 record during his two seasons as the program’s head coach in 2003 and 2004, and he helped Smith become one of the nation’s top college quarterbacks and NFL prospects. Smith, just months after leading Utah to a Fiesta Bowl win, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft, going to the 49ers.

During his 16 seasons, Smith played eight years in San Francisco, five in Kansas City and three in Washington, helping his teams reach the postseason seven times. He earned Pro Bowl honors three times, in 2013, 2016 and 2017.

Smith credited the game of football with helping him find focus in life.

“I was a skinny, no-name recruit who wasn’t even supposed to play in college, let alone go to New York as a Heisman finalist or be the first one to have his name called on draft night,” he said in the Instagram video. “And then, on a routine play, I almost lost everything. But football wouldn’t let me give up because no, this isn’t just a game; it’s not just what happens between those white lines on a Sunday afternoon, it’s about the challenges and the commitment they require.

“It’s about how hard and how far you can push yourself. It’s about the bond between those 53 guys in the locker room and everybody else in the organization. It’s about fully committing yourself to something bigger.”