Alex Smith turns boos to cheers at commencement speech, too

Alex Smith turns boos to cheers at commencement speech, too
May 2, 2014, 7:00 am
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Alex Smith was 38-36-1 over seven years with the 49ers; he is 11-4 in one season with the Chiefs. (USATSI)

Alex Smith asked the University of Utah class of 2014 and their families Thursday night to pretend they were a crowd at Candlestick Park at a Sunday night game against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010.

Does that sound familiar?

Here’s a hint: “We want Carr! We want Carr!”

Smith, the first overall selection in the 2005 draft, asked the graduation crowd to boo him, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

"Imagine 80,000 people tearing you apart," said Smith, the graduation speaker at his alma mater. "The heartbreak is, this was a home game. These were the very same people I was trying so hard to impress."

Smith said he constantly felt the pressure of being the No. 1 overall pick.

"I made it this big shiny trophy I carried around,” Smith said. “It had one word engraved on it, and that was ‘anxiety.’

"I became cautious, I was tentative, my entire mind-set became, ‘Don’t screw up.’"

Then-49ers coach Mike Singletary momentarily benched Smith after his fumble was returned for a touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Backup David Carr warmed up, but never went into the game. But Smith ended up throwing for 309 yards and rallied the 49ers in the 27-24 loss.

Smith returned to the 49ers the next season and turned the boos from the home crowd to cheers.

He started every game as the 49ers went 13-3 in the regular season and advanced to the NFC Championship game. Smith sustained a concussion in 2012 and lost his starting job to Colin Kaepernick while in the midst of his best NFL season. The 49ers traded Smith last year to the Kansas City Chiefs for two second-round draft picks.

"We’re all going to strive for success,” said Smith, who was presented an honorary doctorate on Thursday. “But the truth is at some point you’re going to find yourself on the bench. You’re going to have two choices. One, you can sit and sulk and feel sorry for yourself or you can refocus your energy preparing yourself for the next opportunity life brings you."