The Dallas Cowboys knew there was risk involved with selecting former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith in the second-round of the 2016 NFL Draft. They also knew there was tremendous upside.
A brutal and scary knee injury during his final collegiate game left Smith’s NFL future in doubt, and after missing his entire rookie season, the 23-year-old returned in 2017. He played in all 16 games, totaling 81 combined tackles, two forced fumbles and one sack.
But for Smith, he’s now ready to show the world that he’s completely back, something he told Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports in a recent interview.
Smith is an incredible talent and immediately bolstered the Cowboys linebacker corps. During the interview, the former collegiate star told Schultz that suffering the injury and having the game taken from him was “humbling” and that it made him “a better man.”
Prior to the injury, Smith was a projected top-five pick in the draft. He wound up needing surgery to reconstruct his ACL and had nerve damage from the injury. When the Cowboys selected him, though, they knew he’d miss his rookie season, but were well aware of his talent and the type of person he was as well.
His battle to return from the injury has been nothing short of incredible and seeing Smith produce at a high level in 2017 was a sign of big things to come. And now, just weeks away from the the start of the Cowboys’ regular season opener, Smith sounds like a man poised to truly turn a corner in his NFL career.
The Cowboys made a few big changes on both sides of the ball, but if Smith continues to improve and hit his stride, he and Sean Lee will be one of the best linebacker duos in the league.