ESPN special set to take fans through Alex Smith's harrowing journey

Chris Lingebach
May 01, 2020 - 12:16 pm

NFL fans will truly come to understand the perilous extent of Redskins quarterback Alex Smith's gruesome 2018 leg injury after witnessing an upcoming ESPN special.

"Project 11" – an E:60 original set to air on ESPN Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET – spares no expense for the squeamish, depicting the true horrors of Smith's road to recovery, as he literally risked life and limb for a chance to one day return to an NFL field after infamously shattering his leg in a Nov. 2018 game against the Texans.

Although it was an open secret among local reporters, viewers may be shocked to learn Smith nearly died after contracting Sepsis, a bacterial infection that resulted from his open wound being exposed to the elements at FedEx Field. ESPN details all of it – with necessary graphic warnings – in "Project 11."

In an interview with Scott Van Pelt previewing the special, Smith was asked why he decided to let people inside.

"It was pretty early on when I was in the hospital," Smith said. "And at that point, I think once things had settled down from a seriousness standpoint, our team doctor, Dr. West, had mentioned to me that, if I wanted to, that this would be a great time to potentially think about that, that it is a unique circumstance."

"Nobody's really gone through this from a sports standpoint," he said. "For me, that's when I got in touch with Stephania Bell and E:60 and first started the ball rolling of potentially documenting this."

"Seventeen surgeries and, suffice it to say, it got incredibly dark," said Van Pelt. "How do you best describe just how grim the circumstances that you faced were?"

"I mean thankfully I was unconscious for the grimmest part," Smith said. "When I did wake up and left with the ramifications of what was my leg and potential future, yeah, there's stepping stones, and for me it was never about I think looking too far down the line.

"Not trying to get ahead of myself, just really I think tackling that next step, putting everything into that. Can I get there? And not knowing where I was gonna hit a wall – if and when – and just trying to keep marching."

It was once in question whether Smith would ever walk again. He knocked down that horrifying benchmark with a surprise appearance at a Redskins game last fall, stunning fans as he courageously stepped onto the same field where this journey began.

Asked where he found the strength to carry on, Smith revealed the true measure of his character with his response.

"I think a couple things," he said. "To be confronted with a challenge like this in life, you don't know when challenges are gonna come, what they're gonna look like, and for me to have this to come out of nowhere – certainly a play like any other – and all of a sudden to be thrust in this situation, how am I gonna handle that?

"And certainly to have three kids and two young boys that watch everything I do, and to see certainly how I'm dealing with this, not the things that I say or talk about, but more about my actions and what am I gonna do in the face of adversity? I've got this great challenge, I've got this great opportunity, and it's there, it's there in front of me, and I don't see how I could pass it up."


Told from the perspective of Smith's wife Elizabeth – who was with him every step of the way – this is one special Redskins fans won't want to miss. Knowing the measure of a man can give you a glimpse into his soul. As Ron Rivera recently alluded, don't be surprised to see Alex Smith playing on Sundays again some day.