Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith has overcome some major obstacles over the last two years to finally play in an NFL game.
He was originally projected to be a top-5 selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, but a career-threatening injury caused him to fall to the second round, where the Cowboys selected him. Smith never stepped on an NFL practice field until OTA’s in June 2017.
Through 14 games, he is third on the team in total tackles with 77, and has also forced 2 fumbles this season. His teammates have clearly been paying close attention to his journey, because they voted him the Cowboys’ Ed Block Courage Award winner.
“It’s just a blessing for me and I love my teammates and they’ve been with me every step of the way and motivated by them, and I just appreciate them really seeing everything I had to go through and seeing the hard work, seeing the effort I put in to get back out on the field with those guys and really compete at a high level,” Smith said, via ESPN’s Todd Archer. “I love them and I thank them.”
During Smith’s final game at Notre Dame, the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day 2016 against Ohio State, he sustained an injury to his left leg. That injury turned out to be a torn ACL and PCL, along with nerve damage.
The Cowboys’ 2017 season has been uneven to say the least, with running back Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension, and several injuries hampering their performance on the field. However, Smith has been a positive story that should give the whole organization a reason to feel good heading into the offseason, regardless of whether they make the playoffs.