Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin was among the many who watched ESPN's film Project 11, which documented Alex Smith's recovery from the gruesome leg injury he suffered in November 2018.
After seeing parts of the documentary, McLaurin -- like most viewers of the hour-long film -- didn't think Smith would ever play football again.
"To be honest, I really didn't. I didn't really," McLaurin said Tuesday when asked if he thought he'd ever play with Smith.
"I remember kinda seeing it for the first time, and it kind of takes you back. The next thought you have is 'Man, this guy is still playing?'"
But as the wide receiver has learned over his year and a half of being Smith's teammate, never count No. 11 out.
After undergoing 17 surgeries to get his initial post-operation infection under control, Smith underwent limb salvage in order to save his right leg. Smith then had to wear a metal fixator for months in order to keep everything in his leg in the proper place.
But, after nearly 20 months of recovery, Smith was cleared by team doctors during training camp, and the 36-year-old earned a spot on Washington's original 53-man roster.
Fast forward one month into the season, and Smith was elevated to the backup role. After Kyle Allen suffered a likely season-ending injury in Week 8, Smith has taken over as Washington's starter and has played some of his best football since.
McLaurin has seen plenty of improvement physically from Smith throughout the season, dating back to training camp, and feels the quarterback is getting more comfortable with each game he plays.
"I've truly seen him get better from the start of camp where he's trusting standing there in the pocket more. He's just playing a lot more confident," McLaurin said. "I just feel like that comes with him shaking off that rust that he had."
Over the past year and a half when Smith wasn't able to play, the veteran signal-caller was constantly around the facility and doing anything he could to help his teammates. Both Allen and Dwayne Haskins have raved about how much Smith has been able to help them as young players.
McLaurin believes that Smith's constant involvement with the team, even when he was unable to play, helped him stay sharp with the mental aspect of the game and even made his transition back to playing a little easier than it otherwise would have been.
"He's always been sharp mentally," McLaurin said. "Even when he wasn't the starting quarterback, he was helping guys as much as he could with the iPad on the sidelines during games and the film room and on the practice field."
Whether it's Smith's incredible determination and competitiveness, or simply the quarterback's remarkable recovery, McLaurin and his teammates are motivated by their QB.
"It kind of gives you a sense of you shouldn't have any excuse to not come out and practice hard and try to put your team in the best chance to be successful," McLaurin said.
"Alex has had every opportunity to back away and walk away from the game, and nobody would think twice," the wideout continued. "But for him to be so resilient, that not only shows the world what you can do when you put your mind to something, but I feel like it motivates our team because you have a guy who tries to put us in the best situation to be successful."
On Thursday, Smith will make his third start for Washington this season in a game against Dallas where the winner takes control of first place in the NFC East. Playing on Thanksgiving means a little extra to Smith, as the holiday will forever remind him of when he was rushed into emergency surgery on Turkey Day eve of 2018.
Two years later, he's back as Washington's starting quarterback and has his entire team behind him.
"Having a veteran like Alex I feel like has really helped a lot of us because he's allowed a lot more guys to get involved," McLaurin said. "He has that veteran approach, so you feel like good or bad, we're still going to be okay."