Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith has been named the 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year for returning to football after he almost lost his right leg along with his life. After being taken down in an awkward fashion on Nov. 18, 2018 during a matchup against the Houston Texans, Smith suffered a compound fracture of his right tibia and a fractured right fibula. Smith underwent 17 surgeries to repair his leg and fought off an infection that nearly caused doctors to amputate the limb.
Smith told ESPN's Outside The Lines last February that not only did he almost lose his leg, but he was also actually "very much lucky to be alive." Smith developed sepsis, which is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when the body is fighting infection. He told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap that his memories during those stages of uncertainty were limited since he was under heavy sedation, but he does remember making the decision to try to save his leg.
"The next thing I remember is waking up several weeks later faced with the decision of amputation or limb salvage at that point," said Smith.
The decision to save Smith's leg required more procedures, and he was eventually cleared of all infections. Smith was then placed in an external fixator, which he was attached to for several months. After what was more than a full year of rehab, Smith earned a spot on the active roster heading into the 2020 season. When Dwayne Haskins struggled early on and Kyle Allen was injured, Smith made his return to the field on Oct. 11 against the Los Angeles Rams.
Smith completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,582 yards, six touchdowns and eight interceptions in eight games played in 2020, but went 5-1 as the starter. Washington ended up finishing with a 7-9 record and won its first NFC East title since 2015. A calf injury held Smith out of Washington's wild-card matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the fact that he was able to return to football at all and lead his team to a handful of victories was astounding.
At 36-years-old, Smith is the oldest player to win Comeback Player of the Year since Peyton Manning did so in 2012. Who knows, with how Smith was able to overcome several major obstacles to play football again, maybe this award will be named after him one day.