Thank You, Kansas City


Going into this past season, I pretty much knew.

I mean, I had to know, right? With everything I’ve experienced so far in my career, I probably understand the “business” of football as well as anyone. And trading up to take a quarterback in the draft isn’t exactly a subtle move as to the future of a franchise. It was pretty obvious what that meant for me.

But I still had a job to do.

So I put the blinders on and locked in, because I couldn’t let whatever might happen to me distract from the team’s goal of winning the Super Bowl.

After that, I don’t think I thought about my future again until after the playoff loss to the Titans. I woke up that next morning disappointed that our season was over and that we fell short of our ultimate goal. But I also woke up with the uncertainty about what the future might hold for my family and me.

Back in 2013, when the 49ers traded me to the Chiefs, I had no idea what to expect. Growing up in San Diego, playing college ball at Utah and then going back to California to play for the Niners, I had basically been on the West Coast my entire life. So I didn’t know anything about the Midwest.

But I remember that when news of the trade broke, the first thing everybody wanted to tell me about (besides the BBQ) was the people — how strong and resilient, proud and passionate, and truly kind and caring the people are.

Well, they were definitely telling the truth.

And now that I’m moving on to Washington, that’s something my family and I have talked a lot about — how the thing we’re going to miss most will definitely be the people. The community. The friends we’ve made.

And the incredibly passionate fans.

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I’m going to miss pulling into Arrowhead and snaking through the thousands of tailgaters that make up Chiefs Kingdom.

As a quarterback, you arrive to the stadium pretty early on game day. And when I’d get to Arrowhead, the parking lot would already be full. Honestly, if you show up to tailgate in Kansas City at 8:30 a.m., you’re already late to the party.

And I can tell you that after 13 seasons and playing in nearly every NFL stadium, not every city is like that.

Just seeing how dedicated Chiefs fans are, it always instilled a sense of pride in me to put on that jersey and go out and play for them. I don’t think that’s always the case in pro sports, and I never took that for granted during my five years in Kansas City. I’m going to miss that.

I’m definitely going to miss my teammates, too.

When news of the trade broke, I was inundated with phone calls and long texts from my teammates. It’s pretty rare in this profession to have guys tell you how they feel about you, or how much you’ve meant to them.

Football is the ultimate team sport and the relationships we built in that locker room have been incredible. I mean, in this game you rely on each other so much. And the emotional swings of the game forge bonds that live long after our careers are over. I am so proud to have battled with that group of men.

I guess, at the end of the day, you just want to know that what you do matters. You want to be a good person, a good teammate, and have a positive impact on the people around you. But it’s tough to know if you’re actually accomplishing that when you’re going about your day-to-day business — when you’re actually living it.

So to have so many guys reach out and express their feelings and send their well-wishes … it was just really special, and I think it speaks to the quality of character in that locker room.

I’m going to miss being a part of that.

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It’s been an incredible five years, and I think that after everything, I really only have one regret: That we didn’t win that ring.

It feels like it’s taken forever for March 14 to arrive, and for the trade to become official. But when talks first began, everything happened very quickly.

Coach Reid called me during Super Bowl week and told me that the trade process had started. There were several teams interested and a lot of different scenarios, but everything pointed to Washington being the team.

And once everything had been agreed upon and the news became public, that’s when it really set in.

That’s when it became real.

The emotions that came with it were real, too. There was the relief that it was done — that I knew where my future was. There was a sense of pride for what we had accomplished in Kansas City, and the disappointment that, despite all our successes, we didn’t reach our final goal. There was the sadness of closing a chapter of my life — and my family’s life — in a place we loved calling home.

But there was also the excitement for this new opportunity in Washington.

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my career, it’s that no matter what the circumstances, when you get an opportunity — when a team tells you that they want you to be the guy — you don’t take it for granted. You embrace it. You run with it.

It takes a lot to overcome perception.

To a lot of people, I might just be the guy who went No. 1 in the draft. Or the guy who lost his job to Colin Kaepernick. Or the guy who helped turn a 2–14 Chiefs team into a back-to-back division champ … but then couldn’t put them over the top.

And that’s O.K., I guess.

But who am I, really?

Honestly, I think I’m still figuring that out. I still haven’t found my boundaries as a player. I feel like the limits as to what I’m capable of — they’re still out there. And that’s what I’m working toward.

I thought I was going to end my career in Kansas City. So it’s still a little surreal now that my time with the Chiefs is over and I’m moving on to Washington. It’s been an incredible five years, and I think that after everything, I really only have one regret:

That we didn’t win that ring.

But I’m proud to look back on my time there and know that because of the work my teammates and I put in together, the franchise is in a better place than when I arrived.

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As tough as it is for me to say goodbye to K.C., I could not be more excited about this new opportunity in Washington — joining a team with a rich tradition, a great fan base, and a talented roster and coaching staff that I have admired from afar.

I’m pumped to get out there and get to work. Start learning the playbook. Meeting my new teammates. Integrating myself and my family into the community. Bringing the same work ethic, experience and willingness to do whatever it takes to win — which is what has always mattered most to me — to Washington.

I’m just looking forward to starting something new with the Redskins … and finishing it.

But before I go, I just felt the need to say thank you.

Thank you to my Chiefs teammates for your love and sacrifice. I’m truly going to miss taking the field with you.

Thank you Coach Reid for putting your trust in me and always reminding me to be myself. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me.

Thank you Clark Hunt, the Hunt family and the Chiefs organization, for giving me an opportunity.

Thank you to the people in the organization who don’t get nearly the credit they deserve — the assistant coaches, the trainers, the equipment guys and on down the line. Everybody in the organization, top to bottom. You guys each played a role in all the success that we achieved. You should be proud of that, because I know I was proud every day to work with each of you.

Thank you to the Chiefs Kingdom for being some of the craziest, most dedicated fans in the country.

And thank you to the Kansas City community and all the friends my family and I have made during our time with you. To see all the farewell donations that have been made to the Alex Smith Foundation — all in increments of 11 — has been really special. It’s a tremendous gesture that my family and I have been very touched by. We appreciate you. We’re better people because we were fortunate enough to spend the last five years with you.

So thank you, Kansas City. You will forever be a huge part of who I am as a quarterback and as a man.

And Washington?

Let’s build something great together.