And now that he has, the Utah Utes are hoping others follow his example.
By committing Monday to donate $500,000 to help pay for an expansion of the university's athletics weight room, Smith not only broadened the legacy he built for himself by guiding the Utes to their greatest season and then becoming the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, but potentially opened the door to a new era of charitable giving by his fellow football players - none of whom has ever made such a gesture.
"Hopefully this will pave the way for some of our other NFL guys that are doing very well to pry open their wallets, follow suit and join the team here," coach Kyle Whittingham said. "I can't say enough . . . of how much we appreciate this."
University officials said they will use the donation to launch a campaign to raise the remaining $1 million for the project, which will expand the weight room in the Dee Glen Smith Center on Guardsman Way by nearly 50 percent and rename it after Smith, now the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers.
"I really feel so much pride for this university," Smith said at an afternoon press conference. "I have so much pride in being a Ute and being a graduate of this university. I really, truly feel that it is not only my responsibility, but my honor to make this donation and to give back to any future athletes that will be coming here."
Smith said he chose the project in part because while "it might not look like it . . . I spent a lot of time in the weight room," but also because it was the biggest one the university suggested when he and his mother began to inquire more than a year ago about making a pledge.
"I feel like I never really got to say goodbye to the university and goodbye to Utah and to thank them for everything that happened to me here and all the experiences I had," he said. "They truly were life-changing."
The donation was the third major one by a former Utah athlete in the past two years, following the $500,000 from Andre Miller and the $125,000 from Andrew Bogut - both basketball players - that endowed a scholarship and helped renovate the basketball team's locker room.
"We're very grateful for that," university president Michael Young said. "Although I do want to point out to the football team and all of you here from the football team that basketball leads 2-1, so those of you with the football program, there is more opportunity in the future."
His remarks received a chuckle, but also underscored how much the Utes really would like to see other football players begin to give back, too. Nearly a dozen Utah players over the past dozen years or so have enjoyed reasonably long and lucrative NFL careers, though none quite like Smith, who's entering the third year of a six-year deal with the Niners worth $49.5 million.
"When you're in an NFL locker room, everyone's kind of tagged with their alma mater," he said. "We all kind of wear that on our back and there are little friendly bets here and there if you play each other. Everyone kind of wears that, and I don't think anyone wears it more than me.
"I can't go one or two conversations without talking about how we would have beaten anyone in the nation my last year here, should have been national champions. I have such great pride for this school and the athletics here and the football program in particular, obviously."
Quarterback Alex Smith has donated $500,000 to the University of Utah - about 6 percent of his average annual salary of $8.25 million with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers. An equivalent donation from a person who earns $50,000 a year would be about $3,000.