Former Utes + pro QB Alex Smith joins The Drive to discuss his new gig with ESPN, a storied 16-year NFL career, returning to football after his gruesome injury, the retirement decision, BCS bustin’, the Utes in 2021, a Holy War next month + more
From ESPN Press Room: ESPN has signed three-time Pro Bowler and 16-year NFL quarterback Alex Smith, as the former first overall NFL draft pick transitions from the playing field to an analyst. In the first year of his post-playing career, Smith will appear on multiple shows and in various roles, mainly surrounding NFL programming, including SportsCenter. Smith will have a role on Monday Night Countdown on select weeks and add contributions to Sunday NFL Countdown from time-to-time. The widely-respected veteran will also be part of ESPN’s coverage of key tent pole events, such as Super Bowl LVI and the 2022 NFL Draft. Additional roles may be explored.
“ESPN’s relationship with Alex dates back nearly 20 years when he was gaining national recognition leading Utah to an undefeated season and a top 5 ranking,” said ESPN senior vice president of production Lee Fitting, who was producing College GameDay at the time. “As he begins a new career, we will provide him role flexibility to gain experience on different shows and settings, adding to our productions and benefitting fans in multiple ways. Ultimately, our mutual goal is setting up Alex for long-term success in this next chapter.”
“When I announced my retirement in April, I knew I was walking away from the playing field, but was not walking away from the game,” said Smith. “This opportunity with ESPN surrounds me with new teammates and provides a fresh challenge as my family and I begin the next phase of our life. I’ll be contributing to ESPN’s coverage in a number of ways this season, continuing the relationship with the game I, and so many others, love.”
Smith retired from the NFL in April of this year, concluding a 16-year career which began as the No. 1 overall draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2005. The California-native passed for more than 35,000 yards, threw nearly 200 touchdowns and appeared in more than 175 games, including five seasons with Kansas City (2013-17) and three with Washington (2018-20) following eight with the 49ers (2005-12). He earned Pro Bowl honors in 2013, ’16 and ’17.
Smith gained respect from fans near and far as the NFL world collectively followed his comeback from a severely broken leg, sustained in the 2018 season. His story about the injury was documented in a special edition of ESPN’s E60, Project 11 in May 2020, including his battles with post-operative infection, how doctors and Smith’s family had to make life-changing decisions, and his intense recovery and rehabilitation.
Smith would complete his comeback in October of the 2020 season, as he returned to the playing field. Smith would go on to appear in eight games in 2020 and start six games earning a 5-1 record. His perseverance and success earned him the NFL Comeback Player of the Year honor. E60 would run an additional episode on his story, documenting his comeback, shortly after his retirement.
– Derek Volner, ESPN