Kansas City Chiefs QB Alex Smith was honored on Thursday with an honorary doctorate before giving the commencement speech at the University of Utah. There was at least one Chiefs fan in attendance who yelled "Go Chiefs" during the ceremony.
"I figured this coming season, with such a common last name as Smith, that I might actually put Dr. Smith on the back of my jersey," Smith said to start his speech. "But more importantly, I can now prescribe advice to you because I'm now a doctor."
Related: Transcript | SB Nation's Utah blog on Alex Smith
He did a really nice job with his speech for the Utah graduates. He used his own personal experiences to offer three main pieces of advice and at one point even had everyone standing up and booing him (explained below).
Alex had a great open talking about who he tried to be back in 2005 before the NFL Draft.
"I tried to be the perfect draft prospect. In my meetings with the coaches and executives, I tried to be the perfect interview. At the Combine and at my workouts, I tried to be the perfect player. I tried to promote my strengths and conceal my weaknesses.
"And on paper I kinda succeeded. I was the first pick in the draft. With that, I inherited this big shiny trophy that I carried around and had one word engraved on it and that was anxiety. The problem was, and this is the point, I felt like I had to be perfect to justify my draft status. I became my own worst enemy. I constantly stressed for others' approval and worried about what they were thinking. I felt like I couldn't even make the smallest of mistakes. And then when I did make a mistake, i agonized over it.
"This became a paralyzing cycle. I became cautions, I was tentative and my entire mindset became "Don't screw up." Literally I would tell myself don't screw up, don't throw an incompletion, don't throw an interception, don't fumble, don't jump the snap, don't line up over the guard. That's what I would tell myself. I was young and I let my insecurities and own self-doubt get the best of me. I worried about others' approval. The result was I was stressed, exhausted and full of anxiety. Most importantly, I was completely unproductive."
Obviously things changed for Alex. He gave the graduates three main pieces of advice, which I laid out below along with a few of his anecdotes from the speech.
1. Identify your weaknesses
"We are not running for most popular," Smith said. "Instead I encourage you to run for most respected. Unless Ray Lewis is chasing you. Then I encourage you to run for your life."
He talked about spending time recently with UFC fighter Georges St. Pierre, who spent a lot of time evaluating his own weaknesses.
2. Embrace the new
"Embrace the new no matter how uncomfortable and make it work for you," Smith said.
Alex's dad was also his high school principal, and one of the "perks" is that he made Alex's schedule. While his friends had few classes senior year, Alex had a full schedule, including competitive speech.
"Next to snakes and heights, public speaking was one of my fears," Alex said. "I was literally more comfortable throwing passes on third down than I was getting up in front of people. But he made me do it. I had to embrace the new. I'm glad I did because 15 years later I'm here speaking to all of you."
The topic of a high school speech Alex Smith gave: overpaid professional athletes— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) May 2, 2014
This was a good one talking about new things in his life: "Having seven offensive coordinators in seven years is new."
His college coach at Utah, Urban Meyer, used to say, "If you want is different than what you have, then you need to change what you're doing."
3. Letting go of what you can not control
"Accept what you can not control," Smith said. "We can only control how we react and how we respond."
Talking about his biggest fear, Alex had everyone in the room stand up. He asked one side of the crowd to "You ruined my fantasy football team" and the other said "You're a bust." He also asked fans to yell out other quarterbacks names. "I don't know a Manning, a Brady. If you're feeling really creative, a Kaepernick." The fans started booing because ... well, they're Alex Smith fans, not Colin Kaepernick fans. But Alex told them to stop booing. I didn't take that as a "shot" or anything.
And then ... "I thought I put all those hardships early on in my career and now I was on track, so close to the success I've always dreamed of. We were in the midst of a Super Bowl year and I was playing the best football that I had ever played and I got benched after getting a concussion. I was so close to the ultimate validation in my sport, the Super Bowl, and instead i watched it pass me by from the sidelines. In fact, the only time I stepped foot on the Super Bowl field was the coin toss because I was still technically a team captain."
Of course he went through all of that to become a Kansas City Chief where he's probably going to sign a contract that pays him eight digits a year ... so things are looking up for him.