Jaylon Smith is back to playing football, and just being able to do that is worthy of recognition. We all know the story of Smith injuring his knee so badly two years ago that it was an open debate if he’d ever play again. He’s playing again, and his Cowboys teammates are showing how they feel about that.
So it came as no surprise Friday when the Cowboys announced Smith as the winner of the Ed Block Courage Award, voted on by his teammates. The award is given to a player who exemplifies a commitment to sportsmanship and courage.
“It’s a blessing for me,” Smith said. “I love my teammates, and they have been with me every step of the way. I am motivated by them, and I appreciate them, seeing everything I had to go through, seeing my hard work and the effort I put in to get back on the field with those guys and compete at a high level. I love them, and I thank them.”
The Cowboys took a risk when they drafted Smith, and it looks like it might start paying off on the field. Smith is a much better player in Week 16 than he was in Week 1 of this season. Despite some rough stretches on the field when he was asked to do more than he was capable of at the time, he has put together a solid season.
It's fair to say that it hasn't always been pretty for Jaylon this season. He's struggled at times, like any other rookie. But less than two years ago, a lot of people thought he'd never play again. In 2017, he's posted 96 tackles and 3 TFL while playing 60% of snaps on defense.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) December 22, 2017
He also has one sack and two forced fumbles. Being in a rotation with Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens has obviously helped, but the ease with which he is moving, and his ability to read a play, is growing.
The question is how much better can he get? Is what we’re seeing today close to what he will be for his career, or is there another level of play for Smith? How close can he get to what he could have been before the catastrophic injury?
That’s for next year. For now, salute Jaylon Smith. You made it back, we all might have doubted you, but you never did.