We’re continuing our countdown to the opening game of the Dallas Cowboys 2023 regular season. Each day we’ll present a new player whose jersey number represents the countdown to opening day. Today is number 57 and a historical player.
LB Vinson Smith
Born: 3rd July 1965 (57) - Statesville, North Carolina
College: East Carolina Pirates
Draft: 1988, UDFA, Atlanta Falcons
Forced Fumbles: 4
Fumble Recoveries: 7
Super Bowl winner 1993
Vinson Smith left high school and accepted a scholarship at East Carolina where he played as a defensive linemen for the Pirates. His first year as a freshman was quiet and he didn’t get much playing time, but his sophomore season was a little more active playing as a backup defensive lineman. In his junior year the Pirates made him switch to linebacker, the results were immediate as Smith took to the position and started playing at an extremely high level. He finished the season leading the team with 116 tackles and quickly became a locker room leader. In his senior season he earned the tackle crown again, this time leading the team with 118 tackles. When Smith left East Carolina he had amassed 294 tackles in just two full seasons of playing football.
The start of Smith’s NFL career before getting Dallas was a little turbulent. He went undrafted in 1988 to the Atlanta Falcons only to quickly be placed on injured reserve after an elbow injury. The Falcons would move on from Smith and he would be signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He again quickly found himself on IR after he broke his foot. The next season the Cowboys picked him up after the Steelers released him. Already carrying a list of injuries, Jimmy Johnson decided to take a gamble on Smith and he was put to use on special teams duties. He then caught a chance at the end of the season when Ken Norton Jr. got injured. Smith filled in for the remaining of the season and made an impression on the coaching staff earning him a starting role the next year.
In 1991, playing now as the teams starting Will linebacker, Smith was hit with adversity again and had to go on IR. He missed several games but still finished sixth on the team in tackles. What makes Smith an interesting player to talk about is what happened the following season and beyond. He would become the teams starting strong-side linebacker as well as a key contributor on special teams. Playing in both phases of the game, Smith totaled 82 tackles that year. But it was the moment in that year’s Super Bowl he’s most remembered for. During Super Bowl XXVII facing the Buffalo Bills down on the one-yard line, the Cowboys made history with one of the all-time Super Bowl defensive moments by stopping the Bills from scoring. Ken Norton Jr. made an unbelievable tackle inches from the endzone. But previous to that play, it was Vinson Smith’s touchdown saving tackle with the ball only inches from breaking the plane that made the moment so memorable. The Cowboys beat the Bills to raise the Lombardi for the third time and for the Bills this was their third consecutive Super Bowl loss.
The next season Smith was released and found himself playing for the Chicago Bears. Due to knee injuries he only played in ten games for the Bears and was released. He found himself back at the Cowboys, this time as a backup linebacker. Because the team felt so comfortable with Smith’s abilities to be a backup linebacker and play on special teams, the front office released players for cap reasons. That helped the Cowboys to retain Deion Sanders.
Smith had only a short career at Dallas, but managed to help the team earn a Super Bowl ring and had an iconic play in the Super Bowl. He ended his NFL career with 423 tackles, eight sacks and seven fumble recoveries.