We’re in the middle of college bowl season and that’s always a great time of year.
We watch our teams play, root for craziness, and inevitably all stumble into the late-night game happening on the west coast one random Tuesday night.
It was a bowl game almost two years ago, the Fiesta Bowl to be exact, that changed the future of a certain Dallas Cowboys linebacker forever.
Need ex. of J. Garrett's "right kinda guy?" Ezekiel Elliott only Buckeye to check on Jaylon Smith in Fiesta Bowl pic.twitter.com/AsXpCJ6d7B— Chase Williams WPXI (@chasepwilliams) April 30, 2016
Jaylon Smith suffered an injury that caused many to doubt his abilities to ever play football again just months before turning professional and entering the NFL Draft. Dallas believed in him and drafted him in the second round anyway (34th overall).
It was a pick many, myself included, doubted at the time. Jaylon was an incredible prospect at Notre Dame, but the severity of his injury was impossible to ignore. It wasn’t just precaution to say that he could never play again, it was a legitimate possibility.
A+ ...I didn’t believe he’d ever play a snap. https://t.co/jjRFclzg0H— Bryan Broaddus (@BryanBroaddus) December 28, 2017
Jaylon did miss his entire rookie season. He spent it healing, rehabbing, and doing everything that he could off of the field to better himself for when he inevitably stepped on it.
This week the Cowboys are practiced for their 16th and final game of the 2017 NFL season, and Jaylon Smith is also preparing for his 16th game of the season.
He’s undoubtedly struggled, but Jaylon Smith is one game shy of playing a full NFL season, a feat many thought impossible less than two years ago. pic.twitter.com/2rKe7LmkRn— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) December 25, 2017
His story is great, but in the interest of objectivity it’s important to note that Jaylon has struggled. He simply is not the same player that he was while commanding the Fighting Irish’s defense, but hopefully he can get there with time.
The Cowboys had a bit of a pitch count designed for Jaylon when they began this season, but injuries to Anthony Hitchens and Sean Lee thwarted those plans, thrusting their hopeful linebacker of the future into a workload he obviously wasn’t prepared for.
Jaylon Smith: “I feel elite again. It’s a great feeling, knowing that I’m able to contribute at a high level for America’s Team. There’s going to be some great years to come.”— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 28, 2017
Jaylon has affectionately been referred to as the “Godbacker” at times, but it’s safe to say that he hasn’t lived up to that expectation this year. What he did do though is finish the year, injury free, with some moments and qualities to build upon and be excited about.
In a week of dread when the Cowboys are walking the plank on their season, it should be acknowledged just how incredible it is that Jaylon Smith has been a part of the entire ride. He’ll have an actual regular offseason to train and get better, all the while continuing to do what many believed was impossible all along.