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Defying the Odds: NFL Coach, Quarterback come back from devastating injuries


Most would agree that coaching in the NFL is a full-time job and takes a lot of time and energy, but Ron Rivera takes it to a whole new level. While coaching the Washington Football Team into their first playoff berth since 2015, he has been in an ongoing fight against

Squamous Cell cancer in his lymph nodes. Rivera has gone as far as receiving medically prescribed IVs at halftimes this season to keep him hydrated.

Rivera found out about his cancer months after signing a contract to be the next coach for the Washington Football Team. He received chemotherapy throughout most of the season while working around his busy schedule as head coach. He received his final

chemotherapy treatment mere hours after beating their NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys. Many admire Rivera’s guts throughout this process.

“Rivera’s toughness has been on display throughout this season. I couldn’t imagine

gameplanning and coaching throughout everything he was going through. It was amazing he could lead a team that’s usually at the bottom of the league to a playoff berth,” junior Drew Daniels said.

Rivera’s coaching and the team’s ability to rally around his struggles was apparent in their improvement from 3-13 in 2019 to winning seven games in 2020 and making the playoffs as champions of the NFC East. This was accomplished despite quarterback inconsistency and injuries to starter, Alex Smith (see page right). This includes competing in a playoff game with a fourth string COVID reserve quarterback after injuries made the Football Team turn to Taylor Heinicke. Heinicke was preparing for finals to finish out his engineering degree at Old Dominion when he got the call that Washington needed his services at quarterback. Rivera played a big role in preparing him and much credit is being attributed to Rivera for the way Heinicke performed.

“Rivera did a great job of preparing Heinicke for a huge stage for a guy who didn’t take first team reps before the game. I don’t think Rivera is getting enough credit for almost

winning a game he wasn’t supposed to win with his starter. Heinicke balled out in the chance he got and Rivera definitely played a role in that,”

sophomore Mason Sanchez said.

The diminished Washington Football team played a talented Tampa Bay Buccaneers team close in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, but they were eliminated after a 23-31 loss.


Alex Smith, the current Washinton Football Quarterback is known as an American Warrior. On November 18, 2018 Smith suffered a spiral fracture in his right tibia and fibula after taking a sack from DPOY J.J. Watt.

Alex Smith was traded from the Kansas City Chiefs to the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins in the beginning of 2018. He was sent to Washington D.C. for a third round pick and Cornerback Kendall Fuller. In Smith’s final season in Kansas City, his role was to be mentor to MVP and super bowl champion, Patrick Mahomes.

“It was sad to see Alex Smith go, but at the same time it is incredible to have the best Quarterback in the world on your team. Smith was obviously a good mentor to Mahomes because he has won an MVP and a Super Bowl in two seasons as the team leader,” junior Leo Wurth Said.

Alex Smith defied all odds by defeating his leg injury. After suffering a spiral fracture, he was told he could never play football again, may never walk again, and may lose his leg. Alex developed a flesh eating disease to his leg that would frighten the doctors and his family. Smith did not let that stop him, undergoing 17 different surgeries at a special hospital usually reserved for military troops on his route to recovery. After taking his first steps again, he knew that he wanted to be back on the gridiron.

“Smith is just truly inspirational, he gave all young athletes a reason to fight through an injury. He is definitely a person people can look up to and call their role model,” senior Easton Elliot Said.

Alex Smith started the season as a backup Quarterback. Smith got the start in Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Alex is a natural born winner, while not only defying all odds to play football again, he went 5-1 in his regular season starts leading the Washington

Football Team to the playoffs and winning the NFC East title. Smith dealt with some calf issues and was unable to suit up for the NFC wildcard game against the six time champ Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.

Elizabeth Barry, Alex Smith’s Wife, motivated Alex throughout his recovery and kept the world informed on the process through social media.

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