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The almost-eerie similarities between Alex Smith’s and Joe Theismann’s injury situations

Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith (11) holds his head after an injury during the second half of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018 in Landover, Md. Kneeling down to talk to Smith is teammate Morgan Moses (76).
Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP

SALT LAKE CITY — When people say history repeats itself, they might use the new documentary on former University of Utah quarterback Alex Smith’s inspiring recovery from a gruesome leg injury and infection as evidence.

It’s almost “Twilight Zone” eerie how closely Smith’s situation resembled what happened to Joe Theismann almost four decades earlier.

A graphic that made the rounds on social media following the documentary’s debut last Friday highlights many of the coincidences between Smith and Theismann, who was interviewed for the hour-long show.

Those Smith-Theismann similarities include:


Theismann: broken right tibia and fibula

Smith: broken right tibia and fibula


Theismann: Nov. 18, 1985

Smith: Nov. 18, 2018


Theismann: Washington Redskins

Smith: Washington Redskins


Theismann: Redskins’ stadium (RFK Stadium), Washington, D.C.

Smith: Redskins’ stadium (FedEx Field), Washington, D.C.

Yard line

Theismann: Near the 40

Smith: Near the 40

Final score

Theismann: 23-21

Smith: 23-21

Tackled by

Theismann: 3-time Defensive Player of the Year Lawrence Taylor

Smith: 3-time Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt

Left tackle situation

Theismann: Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Jacoby off the field because of injury

Smith: Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams off the field because of injury

Though some of the circulating memes showed even more similarities — claiming both injuries happened on the 39-yard-line, for instance — a writer at did a Snopes-like investigation of the shared facts and showed that not everything that was shared was fully accurate. For one thing, Theismann reportedly appeared to be sacked on the 41, while Smith was at the 37.

Another truth-stretching fact: Taylor didn’t win his third DPOY award until the following season (1986). Though the Hall of Famer was credited with the sack on Theismann, Kareem Jackson was the one who sacked Smith with Watt coming in to assist.

There could be another huge difference.

In the documentary, Smith made it clear he wants to play again — something Theismann was unable to do. And Theismann went on radio — speaking with 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier recently — and said he believes that just might happen.

“To see the things he’s been able to do, since the end of the documentary, I just ... at first I thought 95-5 that he’s done. Now, I’m not so sure,” Theismann said. “I’m leaning 80-20 that he may make a comeback. He’s got three years left on his deal. He hasn’t played in a couple years. He’s not a Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray run around type of quarterback. He operates out of the pocket extremely well. He’s a great game manager.”