Back in the 2016 draft the Cowboys took a big swing with their second round pick, targeting Jaylon Smith, a prospect that at one point was a lock for the top ten but who had suffered a horrific knee injury in his final college game. Now three seasons later that pick may finally pay off in a big way.
Coming out of college there were many that believe Smith would never be the same after ripping up his knee and suffering nerve damage in his final game at Notre Dame. Now after nearly three years, the linebacker is seeing all that work in rehab working to his benefit.
"Just hard work and determination, having a focused vision, determined beliefs and dreams. Everything I've been through this year, everything is just accelerating." (Jaylon Smith, Cowboys Linebacker)
That acceleration is showing itself in his performance on the field.
"I had some great breaks, where if it was live it would'a been a shot but just overall comfortability is getting back." (Smith)
The Cowboys staff has seen the difference as well.
"He's gotten better and better physically coming off the injury but I think the more he plays, the more and more confident and he just simply plays better." (Jason Garrett, Cowboys Head Coach)
Now it comes down to putting it all together in the games that matter and Smith is hoping to make a much bigger impact in his 2nd season on the field coming off a rookie year where he record just a single sack.
"Understanding the play, understanding your reads and then when the ball is snapped you just react instinctively, they go, they can anticipate situations and they attack them and I think we're seeing more and more of that out of Jaylon." (Garrett)
"I'm a pass rusher at heart. It's just I'm versatile, I can do pretty much anything but just really haven't had the opportunity to do that." (Smith)
As for if we'll ever see the player that smith was before his injury ...
"I'm going to be better than that, I'm not going to lie to you." (Smith)