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Alex Smith to be inducted into College Football Hall of Fame

Former Utah quarterback becomes second Ute to receive the honor

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Utah quarterback Alex Smith runs

Utah quarterback Alex Smith runs through the Pitt Panthers defense during the 2005 Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. on Jan. 1, 2005.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

Alex Smith will be the newest member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

The former Utah quarterback was surprised with the honor on Sunday morning, finding out alongside Randy Moss on ESPN’s “NFL Countdown.”

Smith becomes the second Ute inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining coach Ike Armstrong, who was part of the class of 1957.

In three seasons at Utah, Smith was the starting quarterback for two of them. His first year as the starter was in Urban Meyer’s first season, and Smith led the Utes to an outright Mountain West Conference championship and a 10-2 overall record.

Smith and the Utes built on that success with a 12-0 season in 2004, with Smith finishing fourth in Heisman Trophy voting. En route to Utah’s first undefeated football season, Smith threw for 2,952 yards and 32 touchdowns while rushing for 631 yards and 10 scores.

The 2004 Utah team was the first-ever college football team from a non-automatic qualifying conference to be invited to a BCS bowl, defeating the Pittsburgh Panthers 35-7 in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl to cap off the unbeaten season. Smith threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns in his final action as a Ute.

Over his Ute career, Smith threw for 5,203 yards and 47 touchdowns, adding 1,072 rushing yards and 15 scores.

“I love the idea of the student-athlete and playing for something bigger than yourself and getting your education at the same time,” Smith said in 2021, when he was inducted into the Utah Athletics Hall of Fame. “And that was my dream. And one school gave me a chance. That was the U. and I’m grateful for it. It changed my life, shaped who I am today. And I’m so proud of it.”

At the 2005 NFL Draft, Smith became the first No. 1 pick in Utah football history.

After a few rough years at the start of his seven seasons in San Francisco, he led the 49ers to the NFC championship in 2011, but the 49ers went with Colin Kaepernick after Smith’s 2012 injury, and Smith was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs ahead of the 2013 season.

Smith quarterbacked the Chiefs for five seasons, being named to the Pro Bowl three times and making the playoffs in four of those five seasons, and in 2015 helped Kansas City to its first playoff win since 1993.

After the emergence of Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, Smith was traded to Washington ahead of the 2018 season. He had a 6-4 record before suffering a gruesome right leg injury.

A subsequent infection nearly cost him his leg, and his life.

After eight surgeries — including moving part of his calf muscle and part of his quad muscle from his left leg to the front of his right leg to rebuild his leg — and an extensive rehab program in a military hospital due to the nature of his injury, Smith was able to return to NFL action in 2020 and helped guide Washington to the NFC East division championship.

Smith won the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year award for the 2020 season.

“I just could never imagine any of it, the entire journey. ... My dream growing up was to play college football. I never dreamt in my wildest dreams that I would ever play professionally,” Smith said in 2021.