On Thursday night, Alex Smith delivered the commencement address at the University of Utah. I assume afterward he stood at the podium and affably, yet curtly, answered questions.
No, wait, there's actually a transcript. You can find it at the bottom of Can Inman's article on the address HERE. Inman's article is also worth a read, so check that out. Fortunately for us, honorary Doctor Alex Smith provided some insight into his time as a 49er, calling the NFL Draft "the biggest job interview of my life" and posting that he hid his weaknesses such that he became the perfect player on paper.
But, Smith contended, it was by hiding his weaknesses rather than by confronting them that caused him to struggle during his incipient years as a 49er. The eventually got into his head space: "My entire mindset became," he said "‘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 drop the snap. Don’t line up under the guard’; that’s what I’d tell myself."
Frankly, during his first few years, this is exactly how he played; he played to avoid mistakes. And, I know this has happened to everybody, but when one constantly dwells on not doing something, one will absolutely do it. I'm trying super hard not to make a grammar mistake right now, but I bet there will be one, even after I proof read this sucker.
Smith identified some ways that he corrected this problem. He quipped, "We are not running for most popular, instead, I encourage you all to run for most-respected, unless Ray Lewis is chasing you, and then I encourage you to run for your life." Then, he launched into a story of meeting UFC fighter Georges St-Pierre, remarking that St-Pierre spent more time identifying and overcoming his weaknesses than he did scouting his future opponents. By turning his attention inward, St-Pierre can surpass potential problems that his own weaknesses might generate in the octagon.
I would recommend reading the address for more than one reason; it's really quite interesting as 49er fans, and though I think it can border on the cliche, Smith gives some good advice.
I just wanted to mention one last thing that didn't fit organically into the article above but that I think might be interesting nonetheless for discussion: how much do you think Jim Harbaugh helped Smith overcome his insecurities during the lockout-induced woo-ing? I've got to imagine that Smith appreciated having somebody out there who liked what he saw on tape and was willing to say that out loud. It's just a thought, and an underdeveloped one at that, but one worth discussing, I think.