Aldon Smith is just the latest feel good story the Dallas Cowboys have undertaken
The Dallas Cowboys have a reputation of giving athletes second chances; recently the organization decided to pull the trigger on defensive end Aldon Smith. His journey back to the playing field will be one of the “feel good” stories for the upcoming season.
A former first-round pick, Aldon Smith will be seeing the football field for the first time in nearly five years. The former San Francisco 49er and Oakland Raider was suspended indefinitely after violating the NFL’s substance-abuse and PEDs policy multiple times. On May 20th, the pass rusher was conditionally reinstated by commissioner Roger Goodell.
When all seemed lost how did Aldon Smith end up here?
When news came in that Smith signed with the team, it shocked many. The connection with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula was strong but it took head coach Mike McCarthy meeting Smith in a gym to pull the trigger on the move. However, how Smith eventually got to the point of meeting McCarthy in the gym was a process that took a lot of soul-searching and the death of a family member.
In one of his last conversations with his grandmother, who was suffering from ALS, she told him to “do better.”
A player once filled with so much potential was suspended from the league for substance abuse with marijuana and alcohol. At his worst, he was getting fitted for a GPS tracker and alcohol-tracking monitors. Once, the former number seven overall pick was measured with a blood alcohol content of 0.40. (The percentage to be considered legally intoxicated is 0.08 percent)
The words from his grandmother coupled with the realization of how serious his alcohol addiction was triggered a turn around not many expected. Smith felt he was like a “12-year old boy on the inside while being a man on the outside.” He believes he dealt with things in his past immaturely.
With all the time he has used to fix his mental health and recover from any previous addictions, he’s also gotten into really good shape. When talking with the DFW media on Friday, he stated that he was at a healthy 285 pounds.
All that is left for Smith to do is to meet his teammates and coaching staff. Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula was a big reason for his signing with the team and he wants to make the people who supported him happy.
Journeys like these help remind us that athletes are humans too and many falter in the face of the spotlight.
Smith was once one of the best pass rushers in the league totaling 33.5 sacks in his first two seasons, yet within another three seasons, he was effectively out of the league. While Smith returns heavier than his playing days in San Francisco and Oakland, that gives the team more creativity as to where to play him. When discussing the multiple nature of the new Cowboiys defense, Stephen Jones mentioned Smith could fill the SAM/pass rush specialist needed for multiple fronts. His current size and athleticism could land him a spot as EDGE2 on rushing downs.
Whatever happens with the Dallas defense, the play of Aldon Smith will draw the attention of many as he looks to return to his productive self while uplifting those around him who struggle from substance abuse and addiction. Athletes are people too and journeys like this deserve a round of applause.