The career of Jaylon Smith nearly ended before it even had a chance to begin. In his final collegiate game at Notre Dame against Ohio State in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl, he suffered a gruesome knee injury. Tearing both his ACL and MCL the potential top 5 pick saw his stock plummet all the way out of the first round. He wouldn't have to wait that much longer, though, as the Dallas Cowboys would select him with the 34th pick in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
It would be a long road to recovery for the former leader of the Fighting Irish to get back to the elite level of play he showed in college. He would redshirt, to use a college term, his first year in the NFL and use that time to maximize his rehabilitation process. The flashes were there in 2017 when Smith saw action in all 16 games and made 6 starts. He finished with 81 tackles, 2 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles and a sack.
In 2018 he took his play to another level, putting himself in the conversation as one of the NFL's best linebackers. He had 121 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries while leading the Cowboys to a top 7 defense.
None of this would be possible, however, if the Cowboys hadn't taken a chance on a potential superstar talent like Smith. After tearing two major knee ligaments just months before the draft, and an uncertainty of how long the recovery process would be, the organization saw something in him to take that chance, and Smith hasn't forgotten that.
“I want to be a Cowboy. I want to be a Cowboy for the rest of my life,” Smith said Wednesday, via Jon Machota of TheAthletic.com. “Understanding what they’ve done for me, taking a chance, taking a risk. Now they’re getting the return on their investment. It’s a beautiful thing to be a Dallas Cowboy.”
If anyone is having thoughts of Smith's play declining in 2019 they might want to rethink them according to the man himself.
“This is just the beginning,” Smith said. “I’m never satisfied. Everyone is dealt their own hand, it’s about how you respond. For me, the knee is great.”
After the Cowboys preseason game against the 49ers last weekend Smith had some soreness in his knee. Not exactly the words you wanna hear considering his recent history but according to him, all is well going forward.
“I'm great,” Smith said, via Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk. “They wanted to give me a little time off to be able to rest and heal up.”
Jaylon Smith has gone from being a mystery in terms of could he regain the form he had in college to one of the NFL's best linebackers. A cornerstone piece of the Cowboys defense for the foreseeable future. This marriage between the Cowboys and himself is looking like one that will last a very long time.