Alex Smith's return to the football field in 2020 after suffering a gruesome season-ending leg injury nearly two years prior is one of the best sports stories in recent football history, not just Washington's.
Smith joined NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay on the Washington Football Talk podcast and opened up about what got him through the long days of rehab and self-doubt in hopes of simply walking again, let alone playing professional sports.
His answer? Touching a football.
"The PTs [physical therapists] down there [Center for the Intrepid, in San Antonio] don't hold back," Smith said. "I couldn't walk, and they threw a football in my hand. And I hadn't touched a football since the game. It was amazing. It was amazing to start playing catch, kind of plant that seed and give yourself something to go chase."
Smith said without that moment, and without that push by the PTs, he doesn't think he would have made it back to the football field.
"No, I honestly really don’t," Smith said. "I constantly would get videos sent to me, and text messages, phone calls from a lot of the physical therapists down there, the doctors, they constantly made it okay to dream about this. They even pushed you, saying 'yea, absolutely you can do this.'"
That extra bit of encouragement gave Smith the edge he needed to overcome the early self-doubt that crept in. His broken leg and subsequent infection didn't just threaten his career, but his life. To return this season simply as a backup was an accomplishment in itself, but when Smith was suddenly called to duty in Week 5 and withstood a vicious Rams pass rush, he had his medical team to thanks.
"Doctors didn't hold back at all," Smith said. "When I was stuck in the hospital confined to my bed, even that early on, they were shooting rehab videos of things I'd be doing later. I spent hours and hours watching those videos thinking 'when will I get my chance?'
"I don't know if I'd be here without them."