American Football: Testaverde's triumph shows way for Smith

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The Independent Online

Smith was the first player chosen in this year's collegiate draft following a stellar career at the University of Utah. The 49ers, looking for a spark to salvage a sinking season, elected to throw him in against the Indianapolis Colts, and following a 28-3 humbling, they may be regretting that decision.

Statistically, Smith's debut could hardly have been worse. He completed only nine of his 23 pass attempts for a paltry 74 yards. Not only that, he gave up four interceptions, lost a fumble, and was sacked five times. "No one said it was going to be easy," he said of his daunting baptism. "I have a long road to go down. I have to learn from this and take away what I can."

Smith should not lose heart. Most quarterbacks find it difficult making the transition to the professional game, and there were words of encouragement from the opposition coach, Tony Dungy. "I think Alex is going to be good," he observed. "I coached against John Elway in his first game, and it was very similar. You can't judge anyone by their first game."

Two weeks ago, Testaverde was enjoying a well-earned retirement after 17 prolific campaigns. Then the Jets lost Chad Pennington and Jay Fielder to season-ending injuries, and in desperation, the Jets asked their former player to return to action.

Testaverde duly obliged, completing 13 of 19 passes, while the running back Curtis Martin scored both New York touchdowns and, unlike Smith, he had enough savvy to avoid the big mistake as the Jets edged out the previously unbeaten Buccaneers.