When Alex Smith made his first career NFL start for the San Francisco 49ers in 2005, the opposing quarterback that day was Peyton Manning, already well on his way toward establishing his own legacy as one of the NFL's all-time greats.
So perhaps it was Smith's destiny that the prime of his career will be defined by his, and his team's, ability to beat Manning and his latest team, the Denver Broncos. Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs aren't off to a great start in that regard. They failed to beat Manning and the Broncos in either of their chances last season.
The comparisons between Manning and Smith are natural since both players were once overall No. 1 draft picks. Smith hasn't succeeded like Manning on the basis of personal or team achievements and it's unlikely he will ever get to Manning's level without beating him, preferably more than once.
That's something Smith tacitly acknowledged Thursday in a news conference with reporters in Salt Lake City. Smith, who is to deliver the commencement address at his alma mater, the University of Utah, acknowledged he's aware the Chiefs and Broncos will play one of their two annual games early in the season, on Sept. 14 in Denver.
The teams will also play one another in late November at Arrowhead Stadium.
"I certainly want to beat him," Smith said. "That's for sure and twice a year, hopefully. That's the goal.
"The wins are the most important thing. I'm not necessarily worried about all that other stuff. I think it just kind of comes with time and doing things the right way and working hard. For me, it's just trying to get the [win]. I'd love to get that over him. We came up short twice last year. But the great thing is we get a couple of more opportunities this year and one of them early. That's definitely the focus.
"In that sense, it's a little surreal because he's a guy I grew up watching as well. My first career start was against him. It's been fun to compete against him over the years. Now as I'm older I'm less caught up in that, I guess, and I look forward to taking him down."