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Matt Piper and Kyle Goon
Matt Piper and Kyle Goon cover University of Utah sports teams for The Salt Lake Tribune. Matt Piper is on twitter at @matthew_piper, Kyle Goon is on twitter at @kylegoon

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Former Ute Alex Smith reflects on ‘04 season, NFL (VIDEO)

His twenties are running out fast, but it's hard to tell simply by looking at Alex Smith.

The former Ute and current Kansas City Chiefs quarterback was back on campus on Thursday, ahead of his commencement speech for thousands of Utah graduates. He's filled out a bit, and his neat beard is also a development, but he still looks very much like the fresh-faced leader of the 2004 undefeated team that fans remember so well.

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He remains youthful-looking, but what has changed, Smith said, is his responsibilities. He's married with two sons, Hudson and Hayes, and when he walks into his NFL locker room, he's certainly not treated like a kid anymore.

"I'm like the old man in the locker room," he said. "It's just weird, very weird to be there. I feel like that happened so fast. You know what, you take those on. It's been fun, all those new things that come in life."

Almost a decade has passed since Smith and the Utes busted the BCS in 2004, but the quarterback only turns 30 next week. Smith said he had no expectation of being a commencement speaker, and certainly not before he turned 30, but he was flattered by the invitation.

The memories that are still quite easy to recall for Utes fans still seemed fresh to Smith when he addressed the media Thursday morning. The lingo was fresh as well, as Smith still isn't above referring to BYU as "the Team Down South" as he remembered his favorite moments of that season.

"The fans rushing the field, that was a moment I'll never forget to be a part of," Smith said. "The raw emotion and joy of everybody. To get the MUSS down on the field and have them down with you was just truly, truly special and something I'll never forget."

Smith added that despite the hiatus in the Holy War, he and Andy Reid - a BYU grad - still have verbal sparring sessions on the rivalry, although "he hasn't had a lot of opportunity lately because we've been beating up on them."

What has changed more since that season is the world around Smith. At the time, he said, the players felt a part of something special as they fought to show that the BCS had left them out.

Today, college football has adopted a playoff system with four teams, which the 2004 Utes would've killed to get their shot in back then.

"It's a shame," he said. "I certainly would've loved that opportunity our last year, because we're left with never being able to know. There were three teams that were undefeated that year heading in, and I would've loved to be able to have a couple extra games to figure out who was the best."

Though most of the session was Smith recollecting, he's looking forward in his career. He said making the playoffs in Kansas City was reaffirming in his professional life, and he's looking forward to taking the next step and getting further and hopefully back to the Super Bowl, this time as a starter.

In the same spirit, he said he had a chance to speak to some of the current Utes a few weeks back, and he challenged them to take a step forward. The 2004 team was one step, the 2008 team another. Reaching the Pac-12 was one step, but being competitive is the next, he said.

"You're nearing the point where if we take the last of these couple steps, there's not going to be many left, you're going to be at the pinnacle there," he said. "I kind of challenged to be that team, to be that Utah team that everyone will remember that did that."

Smith was a little less forthcoming on how his graduation speech would go.

"No sneak previews," he said with a smile.

Kyle Goon

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon



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