Former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, announced Monday he will retire from the league after 16 seasons.
After suffering a grueling leg injury in 2018, Smith encountered numerous setbacks on his road to recovery since the injury, finally making his return to the field for the Washington Football Team midway through the 2020 season.
Smith played for the 49ers for eight seasons alongside former teammate Frank Gore, who was part of the same 2005 draft class as Smith. The former 49ers running back wished his former quarterback well in retirement.
49ers owner Jed York also made a glowing statement about Smith on behalf of the organization.
Smith has been highly respected around the league, not just for his play on the field, but for his inspiring return to the game after his health struggles post-surgery. Current Arizona Cardinals defensive end JJ Watt weighed in on Smith's announcement.
Smith was replaced by then-backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick midway through the 2012 season, only to be traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013. One memory 49ers fans will always have of Smith is the electrifying touchdown run against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Divisional Round that rocked Candlestick Park and helped the 49ers advance to the NFC Championship Game.
After nearing losing his leg, and potentially his life, Smith returned to game action for Washington in 2020. He helped lead them to their first playoff appearance since 2015, but was replaced by Taylor Heinicke in a loss to the future Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card round. Smith played in eight games throughout the 2020 season, starting six of them, and boasted a 5-1 record while throwing for 1,582 yards with six touchdowns and eight interceptions.
His tenure with the 49ers had plenty of ups and downs, but ultimately, Smith's legacy on and off the field will hold a special place in the hearts of 49ers fans everywhere.