Just days after Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer admitted he’d like to bring in quarterback Alex Smith, the veteran passer announced he is retiring from the NFL. The announcement was made in a video posted to he and his wife Elizabeth’s Instagram.
The former No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft is one of Meyer’s best success stories. Smith was the first in what became a long line of Meyer products to flourish in college football and the NFL. He was Meyer’s quarterback at Utah, leading the Utes to a 21-1 record as a starter, finishing as a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2004 and becoming the No. 1 overall pick for the San Francisco 49ers in 2005. He was drafted by former 49ers and current Jaguars General Manager, Trent Baalke.
The NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year in 2020, the former Washington Football Team quarterback returned after a life-threatening leg injury. He was near death in 2018 and for sure was never going to play football again. He took all that news in stride…and preceded to train for a return. After sitting out in 2019 and missing parts of 2020 with lingering issues, he still went 5-1 as a starter for the WFT. The team released him in March of this year.
“I wanted [Alex Smith] here,” Meyer admitted last week on the Michael Irvin Podcast. “We talked to him about joining in here.”
“Of all the players I've ever coached—and I would tell people this when people didn't know how tough he was—he’s one of the toughest cats I've ever been around,” bragged Meyer.
“He's obviously, he’s one of those guys, never had a B, was like, just really smart, photographic memory. He did the things in the spread offense before people even knew what he was doing. And then when I saw him, and I was embarrassed to say that I knew he had a bad injury—he’s so private—I had no idea how bad until I watched that [Project 11 documentary].
“I looked at my wife, she's sobbing, as we're watching that documentary, and I know his wife Elizabeth and Alex are dear friends, his parents were dear friends. He's one of the great stories in NFL history.”
With his former college coach and first NFL GM now in Jacksonville, there was a major push to bring the 16-year NFL veteran to Florida. But the uncertainty around his leg injury led Washington to release him and cause concerns on the First Coast, even with Meyer and Baalke pushing for Smith, according to the head coach.
“We had conversations with him and and there is some, you know there's some medical people that in our organization that were very concerned,” Meyer revealed.
The Jags are getting ready to draft Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. But he’ll need a mentor, and the locker room needs a leader. So Urban Meyer wasn’t quite ready to shut the door on the possibility of Alex Smith joining the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"You got two people in Jacksonville (Meyer and Baalke) that love that Alex as much—that was deeper than a player now, he's like our family. Both of us feel so strong about him. But, no, that's something that we're just going to keep an eye on because I hope it comes back.”
Of course now it’s a mute point. In the video posted on Instagram Smith chronicled his journey and decision to return after the life threatening injury and then his decision to retire.
"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. Putting my helmet back on was the farthest thing from my mind. I just kept asking myself, all this for a stupid game,” Smith admitted.
“But then someone did something that changed my recovery completely. He put a football back in my hands. I don't know what it was, but all of a sudden, I felt stronger, more driven, and what once seemed impossible began to come into focus. And the truth is, over the course of my life. That's what this game has done for me. 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.
“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, and most of all, it's about you.
“So to everyone out there, whether you're a part of Niner Nation, the Chiefs kingdom or the burgundy and gold. I thank you to all the men I had the privilege of standing with and playing alongside. Thank you. I want to say thank you for believing in me. And thank you for helping me believe in myself and in the impossible.
“After 16 years of giving this game everything I've got. I can't wait to see what else is possible. But first, I'm 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.”
Meyer has always taken every opportunity presented to brag on Alex Smith. So while the chances of him playing with the Jacksonville Jaguars now seem to be gone, the possibility will always be there for Urban Meyer to lean on his former quarterback in whatever way possible.