Alex Smith was in Salt Lake City Monday to announce his gift.
Feb. 12, 2007
SALT LAKE CITY -
Alex Smith, a 2004 Heisman Trophy finalist who quarterbacked the University of Utah to the best season in school history before becoming the NFL's No. 1 draft pick, has committed $500,000 to his alma mater's athletics department. His donation will serve as the lead gift for the Alex Smith Strength and Conditioning Facility - a $1.5 million expansion of Utah's varsity athletics weight room.
The San Francisco 49er quarterback is in town today to announce his gift and kick-off a campaign to raise the remaining funds for the project. Plans call for the expansion of the Dee Glen Smith Center (which houses the strength and conditioning room, as well as the football coaching offices, meeting, training and equipment rooms) to the east and west. The Alex Smith Strength and Conditioning Facility will cover 11,000 square feet - a 3,500-square foot improvement from its current size - and will feature new lifting stations and cardiovascular conditioning space.
Smith, who played at Utah from 2002-04, said of his gift, "Utah is the only school that gave me a chance out of high school and this is where I developed into what I am today. Even though I was only here for three years, I got my degree and I gained a lot of life experiences as well. I wanted to give back to the school and people who changed my life."
In 2004, Smith became Utah's first Heisman Trophy finalist while leading Utah to a 12-0 record, a No. 4 Associated Press ranking and an historic BCS appearance. The Utes finished their record-setting season with a 35-7 win over Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl, with Smith throwing for 328 yards and four touchdowns. Named the 2004 National Player of the Year by both Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News, Smith was a first-team All-American by the Football Writers of America Association (FWAA) and SportsIllustrated.com. He was a finalist for the Davey O'Brien and Walter Camp Player of the Year awards and was selected as the Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
Smith produced a 21-1 record as a starter after taking over in the third game of his sophomore season in 2003. He won nine Mountain West Conference Player of the Week citations from 2003-04, and led Utah to a pair of conference championships and two bowl victories. As a junior in 2004, he passed for a school-record 32 touchdowns while throwing just four interceptions, and his 176.5 passing efficiency ranked No. 2 in the nation. He led the MWC in passing yards per game (246.0) and total offense (298.6) - ranking fifth in the country in the latter. He rushed for 631 yards - averaging 52.6 yards per game - and 10 touchdowns in 2004.
Also an outstanding student, the La Mesa, Calif., native received his bachelor's degree in economics from Utah in just two years and graduated with a 3.74 GPA. Smith was selected as the 2004 CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year from a field of over 360,000 NCAA student-athletes. He began work on a master's degree in economics during his junior season, before declaring early for the NFL draft and going No. 1 to San Francisco, where he is the starting quarterback.
The weight room expansion marks the first addition to the Dee Glen Smith Athletics Center's original 33,000-square foot imprint, although it has undergone a number of renovations since opening in 1991, including a refurbished player lounge in 2004, and locker and auditorium improvements in 2005.
"This gift illustrates one of Alex's greatest characteristics - that of leadership," said University of Utah President Michael Young. "He clearly demonstrated that leadership at Rice-Eccles Stadium. He continues to demonstrate it at Monster Park. And now he's leading once again as a young alumnus giving back to his alma mater. We are deeply grateful and very proud of Alex."
Said Utah Director of Athletics Dr. Chris Hill, "Alex's generosity and desire to help his college football team continue to be successful epitomizes his career as a student-athlete - second to none. Alex was not only a great football player, he was also an outstanding scholar, teammate and leader. I am thrilled that Alex's experience at Utah was such that he wants to remain a part of our program."
Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham also expressed his gratitude. "On behalf of the University of Utah football program, I would like to thank Alex Smith for his generous donation. Alex's leadership - both on and off the field - helped bring unprecedented success and recognition to the University during his playing days here. I sincerely appreciate Alex's continued commitment to the success of the athletic programs and student-athletes at the University of Utah."
With his donation, Smith becomes the third professional athlete in the past two years to donate money to the University of Utah athletics department. Andre Miller ($500,000) and Andrew Bogut ($125,000) both contributed to the men's basketball program.