Just over 17 months ago, NFL veteran Alex Smith suffered a severely broken leg while playing quarterback for the Washington Redskins. The story of how bad his injury was, including his battles with post-operative infection, of how doctors and Smith’s family had to make life-changing decisions, and of his intense recovery and rehabilitation, has never been fully told until now.
In a special edition of E60, “Project 11” will document Smith’s riveting story, from lightly recruited high school quarterback to battle-tested former No. 1 draft pick fighting his way back from an injury that almost cost him everything. The program debuts on Friday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
“No NFL player has ever been through what Alex Smith has,” said Andy Tennant, E60 executive producer. “He’s normally a very private person but he wanted to document his road to recovery as well and as detailed as possible, with the hope that future players could use it as a road map.
“The access that he and his family granted to E60 is incredible and viewers will see a story of strength, dedication and perseverance.”
After a 6-3 start to their 2018 season, everything seemed to be going according to plan for the Redskins and Smith, who had joined the team after previous stints in San Francisco and Kansas City. But then came the Nov. 18 game against the Houston Texans – Smith was sacked and fell to the ground with a major injury to his right leg.
ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell spent more than a year documenting Smith’s journey for E60, with rare and exclusive access to Smith, his family and his doctors, who deemed the injury “warlike.” Viewers will see:
- Detailed explanation of the nature of Smith’s injury and why it was so serious.
- Never before seen, sometimes graphic, images, provided by Smith and his family, of setbacks and progress.
- Interviews with physicians who performed the 17 surgeries Smith has endured since the injury and who treated him throughout the process.
- Scenes from Smith’s rehabilitation alongside U.S. military veterans who were injured in combat.
The program also includes new interviews with Urban Meyer, who coached Smith at the University of Utah; Jim Harbaugh and Mike McCarthy, who coached him at the 49ers; and Andy Reid and Matt Nagy, his coaches at the Chiefs.
Also interviewed are Smith’s former 49ers teammate Vernon Davis; former Redskins teammate Adrian Peterson; and JJ Watt of the Texans, who made the fateful tackle on Smith.
The one-hour program was produced by Daniel Lindberg from more than 50 hours of original video shot as well as more than 40 hours of archival material that was pulled and screened. The E60 crew spent 14 days shooting with Smith and 27 total shooting days over more than a year.
Leading up to Friday night’s airing of “Project 11,” several ESPN platforms will offer previews of the program, including:
OTL on SportsCenter – The daily Outside the Lines segments in the noon ET edition of SportsCenter will be dedicated to “Project 11” every day this week with special guests connected to Smith and the story. On Friday, Smith will be on the program with host Ryan Smith.
ESPN Daily Podcast – Host Mina Kimes will talk with Smith and Bell about “Project 11” on Friday, May 1.
ESPN.com – Bell will have a written version of “Project 11” on ESPN.com to accompany the E60 program. The piece will be from the point of view of Elizabeth Smith, Alex’ wife.
The award-winning E60 debuted in October of 2007 as a prime time newsmagazine program. Now airing monthly, the program has been honored with 16 Sports Emmy Awards.
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