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Utah football legend Alex Smith earns spot in Academic All-America Hall of Fame

Alex Smith runs by BYU’s Brady Poppingga as the University of Utah and Brigham Young University play football, Utah Nov. 20, 2004 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo by Tom Smart (Submission date: 11/20/2004)
Alex Smith runs by BYU’s Brady Poppinga as the University of Utah and Brigham Young University play football at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Nov. 20, 2004.
Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Alex Smith achieved something Friday that no other University of Utah sports alumnus had ever done — and it actually had nothing to do with the documentary about his recovery from a harrowing near-death experience on ESPN.

The former No. 1 pick in the NFL and Heisman Trophy finalist will become the first-ever Utah athlete inducted into the College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-America Hall of Fame, the organization announced Friday.

Smith earned 2004-05 CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year honors for football and all sports for the University Division, having graduated in two years with a bachelor’s degree in economics and a 3.74 GPA.

Smith led Utah to a 12-0 record, a No. 4 ranking by the Associated Press and a spot in the Bowl Championship Series (a 35-7 win over Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl) in 2004. The first-team All-American (FWAA, Sports Illustrated) was recognized as the National Player of the Year by SI and the Sporting News. He guided the Utes to a 21-1 record as a starter, to two MWC championships, two bowl wins and set still-standing career records for passing efficiency (164.42), yards per completion (13.38), total offense yards per play (7.19) and touchdown passes in a season (32).

It was announced earlier this week that he will be inducted into the Utah Athletics Hall of Fame in 2020.

Along with Smith, Stacey Dales (Oklahoma women’s basketball), Bruce Furniss (USC men’s swimming) and Michelle Johannes (Mount Holyoke women’s volleyball) will be inducted in the 2020 class and join 154 Academic All-Americans that have earned Hall of Fame honors since 1988.

The Academic All-America Hall of Fame honors former Academic All-Americans who received a college degree at least 10 years ago, have achieved lifetime success in their professional careers and are committed to philanthropic causes, according to a press release.

Smith has played 13 seasons in the NFL for San Francisco, Kansas City and Washington. He made the Pro Bowl in 2013, 2016 and 2017 and was named Kansas City’s Derrick Thomas Award/team MVP winner after the 2015 season. He threw 312 consecutive passes that season without an interception, which is third all-time behind Aaron Rodgers (402) and Tom Brady (358).

Smith, whose namesake foundation helps teens transition to adulthood, was Kansas City’s nominee for the 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which recognizes an NFL player for outstanding community service activities off the field as well as excellence on the field.