- Eric D. Williams, ESPN San Diego Chargers reporter
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He grew up watching and attending San Diego Chargers games. And with the help of high school teammate Reggie Bush, the San Diego native led Helix High School to two San Diego California Interscholastic Federation section championships played at Qualcomm Stadium.
Smith also led Utah to a win over San Diego State at Qualcomm Stadium in his final year in college.
But as a pro, Smith is 0-2 at Qualcomm, losing in 2006 and 2010 to the Chargers as the quarterback and No. 1 overall pick of the San Francisco 49ers in the 2005 draft.
Smith will play in Qualcomm Stadium as a member of the Chiefs for the first time Sunday. He did not play last year's final regular-season game because Andy Reid chose to rest his starters in preparation for the playoffs, a game in which San Diego escaped with a 27-24 victory to advance to the postseason.
Smith, 30, said he’s looking forward to playing at Qualcomm again.
“Of course, growing up there in your hometown and going back,” Smith said. “But I haven’t thought a lot about that. To be honest, I kind of got my hands full with this film, and obviously getting ready to play a pretty good team.”
Last year, the Chiefs made a trade with the 49ers to obtain Smith and serve as the team’s franchise quarterback. And prior to this season, he signed a four-year, $68 million contract extension in the hopes of becoming the long-term solution at quarterback.
So far, he’s lived up to the lofty expectations, leading the Chiefs to the playoffs in 2013 and making the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 10-year NFL career.
After a slow start this season, in which he struggled in losses against Tennessee and Denver, Smith has led Kansas City to two wins in its past three games.
“He’s the perfect guy for that scheme,” former Kansas City cornerback Brandon Flowers said. “He’s a guy who’s not going to turn the ball over. He’s going to make all of the smart throws. He gets the ball out of his hands quick. He’s not going to take sacks.
“He’s the type of quarterback a lot of offensive coordinators would love to have in their system.”
Growing up in San Diego, Smith said that Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was someone he studied.
“It’s always fun to go against Philip,” Smith said. “He’s such a competitor, having gotten to know him. He’s a good guy. I’ve always watched him. In the NFL you watch a lot of offense and opponents’ film. And certainly, he’s a guy who I appreciate how he goes about his game, and I think [he's] one of the best there is from inside the pocket.”
Facing Smith breaks a streak of four straight weeks in which San Diego’s defense played against first or second-year quarterbacks. The Chargers won all four of those games, but defensive coordinator John Pagano will face a different challenge in game-planning for an experienced and mobile quarterback in Smith.
“It’s about us going out and executing,” Pagano said. “It's about us doing what we have to do as a defensive unit. They are explosive, and Alex is playing at a high level. He’s confident in his throws.
“You hear all the things about him managing the game, and then you put the tape on, and you see how his completion percentage is up there, not a lot of interceptions, and he’s putting it where they need to catch it. From an experience standpoint, I think this is one of the most explosive offenses. The weapons they have across the board it is a tremendous challenge.”
Qualcomm Stadium serves as familiar surroundings for Kansas City QB Alex Smith.