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What’s Fueling Alex Smith

The retired Pro Bowl QB speaks with Boardroom about his investment in nutrition company UCAN and how its products have helped him both during and after his playing days.

Alex Smith always had to prioritize recovery since being selected No. 1 overall by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2005 NFL Draft. That was never truer than when he suffered a compound fracture in his right leg in November 2018 that became a potentially life-threatening injury.

Against all odds, Smith made a spirited return to the field for Washington in 2020 to thunderous applause. He announced his retirement from football last April.

As the Pro Bowl quarterback told Boardroom, nutrition company UCAN — where he is now an ambassador and investor — was critical to his unlikely comeback.

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Smith’s journey with UCAN began around his move from Kansas City to Washington after the Chiefs dealt him in early 2018 to clear the pocket for Patrick Mahomes. With over a decade of playing experience in the league at that point, health and longevity became even more of a priority.

“When I was younger, I just wanted to make it 10 years,” Smith told Boardroom. “Because of the time between a meal and the end [of a game], it’s almost like intermittent fasting, and I would be exhausted at the end of games.”

Someone approached Smith and suggested he try UCAN. The connection was easy. “It’s everything sports drinks want to be,” he added. “There’s no sugar, so there isn’t that crashing feeling afterwards.”

UCAN debuted in 2012 with its Plain SuperStarch Energy Powder, which Smith has leaned on especially. The product makes use of a special method of cooking starches so that they release glucose steadily over the course of several hours.

Alex Smith’s Career Accomplishments

  • No. 1 overall pick in 2005
  • 16 NFL seasons
  • 3 Pro Bowls
  • 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year
  • $133.5 million in NFL salary earnings
  • 99-67-1 record
  • 35,650 career passing yards
  • Additional key endorsements with AdvoCare, Nike

“Professional athletes are creatures of habit,” Smith said. “Every Monday is exactly the same. Every Tuesday. So to have something that I can easily incorporate into my routine — not to mention the positive effects it had on my body — it was a no-brainer. … Quarterbacks have to be able to process, so not only did I have energy, but I also was able to think clearer and have better focus.”

Smith noted investments as an additional adjustment that comes as one ages. “Younger players are taught to hold onto their money since NFL careers aren’t guaranteed,” he said. “The average is less than three years. Once I made it past 10 [years], I started to look into other ways and companies to invest in.”

UCAN was such a natural fit because of the way it helped Smith during the roughest portion of his life. The damage done to Smith’s leg during that November 2018 game against Houston was so devastating that there was a discussion about whether the leg needed to be amputated — let alone if he would be able to walk or play football again.

“Eating was hard [in the hospital],” Smith recalled. “I had a whole new challenge, and I’m just trying to take it one step at a time, so I added UCAN as a meal replacement and that helped with my recovery.”

Smith rehabbed and took an NFL snap again in October 2020, going on to appear in eight games for Washington that season. The improbable return earned him the 2020 NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.

Today, Smith is also on UCAN’s Fitness Advisory Board and continues to use the company’s products after calling it a career in 2021. “UCAN even helps with everyday post-retirement life,” he said. “Our house is crazy just to get the kids to school. So, I can just throw the powder in some water and shake it up and be on my way.”

He emphasized that UCAN’s nutrition offerings “are for both elite athletes and everyday people.”

You might call it his No. 1 pick.

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