Jaylon Smith's 500-day journey to astound, inspire

I'm not sure how we got here.

All we heard, from the moment he was drafted, was "eh, I don't knowwww."

Then Jaylon Smith went from the world's biggest human question mark to a starting linebacker in an NFL game where his defense gave up just three points in 60 minutes of football. In six weeks.

Don't forget that. At the start of Cowboys training camp, Smith was still a massive unknown.  It wasn't clear how much he would participate in practices, let alone what he'd be able to do on a game field against another color jersey, with players who don't care about his debilitating knee injury, and just want to run through, around, over, or past the guy wearing #54 in white.

Then he continued what he had been doing for well over a year already.  He grinded.  He followed Sean Lee through every drill the Cowboys linebackers did.  Sean Lee went first. Because that's who Sean Lee is, and he won't have it any other way.  Jaylon Smith went second.  Because that's who Jaylon Smith is.

"He’s a really inspirational guy," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said of Smith. "So much of that decision to draft him had a lot to do with who he was as a person. He’s demonstrated that and more since we drafted him. It’s been a long journey back for him. A lot of obstacles. But he’s really, really mentally tough.

"He’s got a great spirit, a good attitude and it’s been amazing to see him come back and overcome so many different things and never waver. Never waver one minute. It’s fun to see him out there tonight running around making plays."

Never wavered. Never faltered. Never bought into the common belief that his injury was too severe to come back from. And frankly, almost never came off the field on Sunday night.

“Well, we had (Justin) Durant sitting over there and ready to go," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "Jaylon just kept going."

Jaylon just kept going.  Sounds like the last sixteen months.

It was a 500 day journey. 500 days since Jaylon Smith was drafted in the second round, roughly 30 spots lower than he should've been drafted, were in not for that gruesome knee injury suffered in Notre Dame's bowl game the January prior.  A no-doubt, surefire top 5 pick, with talent for days, a fiery passion for the game, and a set of physical gifts few are born with.  Instead drafted where some [read: crazy] teams draft kickers.

500 days. Blood. Sweat. Grind. What Jaylon calls his 'Clear Eye View'. All leading up to a Sunday night showcase, where he hardly left the field.

I'm not sure how we got here so fast. But the "eh, I don't knowwww"-ers?  Yeah, they're gone.

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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