OXNARD (105.3 THE FAN) – During the Jason Garrett era there has been so much talk about, “The right kind of guy.”
It’s a great concept, but that motto hasn’t been the reality over the past several years.
The Cowboys have had incidents with Josh Brent … Greg Hardy … banned substance violations for Orlando Scandrick, DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory and … oh yeah, Rolando McClain – a player so brazen that even while facing a 10-game suspension he decided to skip the team flight out here to training camp, despite the fact the team had a seat ready and expected him to be on the plane.
These incidents, the latest batch of suspensions which have the Cowboys facing a $250,000 fine from the NFL, have many fans of America’s Team wondering who on the roster (especially among the newer faces) they should be cheering for.
Well, I’ve got one for ya … rookie linebacker Jaylon Smith.
Oh man, I can already sense people rolling their eyes, even though I’m just now writing this and you won’t read it until the future (or maybe the present … whoa) – that’s how strongly I’m guessing some of the skeptics are feeling right now. How can you root for someone who suffered a devastating ACL and MCL injury seven months ago, wears a brace to help him walk (yeah, I saw it) and is unlikely to take the field for Dallas in 2016?
But please, put cynicism aside for a few minutes (depending on how fast you read) and hear me out.
Cory Mageors and myself had an opportunity to sit down with Smith on Sunday … shameless plug alert (an interview you can hear on Monday night’s edition of The K&C Masterpiece) and he is one of the more positive people you will ever meet. And, unlike some members of the defense who may not be long for this roster, Smith has a genuine passion for the sport.
“It’s hard to describe man,” he said. “I just love football … I just love it.”
Which is what made April 29, the second day of the 2016 NFL Draft, so special.
“My dream has been to play in the NFL since I was 7,” Smith said. “So, when I got that call from Mr. Jones, it was … it was a special moment … and very emotional.”
True, those sentiments won’t help Smith recover from lingering nerve damage any quicker, but we can skip the emotional points if you prefer and focus on what I’ve already seen on the practice fields. In addition to possessing the build of a defensive end, Smith has been doing resistance work these first few days and already appears to have regained much of the defensive back-like agility he displayed with the Fighting Irish. That’s a hell of a combination for a linebacker.
The Cowboys’ selection of Smith continues to be derided by many for a variety of reasons, but for those (like myself) who don’t believe Dallas is locked into some sort of Tony Romo window in which the team will be doomed once their quarterback retires, Smith could be a huge part of the future.
And his upside might be even higher off the field.
While talking with us Sunday, Smith discussed plenty of off-the-field topics – like his faith (“I don’t want to alienate anyone’s particular religion, but I definitely believe in the man upstairs”), his hair (which comes complete with an amazing Instagram stalker story you can only hear on 105.3 The Fan) and our ridiculous ongoing diagonal hamburger-cutting debate.
“Yeah,” I see [Cory’s] point,” Smith said with a smile. “I think he’s right.”
Later that day, Smith was one of the last four people on the field (along with Garrett, Cole Beasley and Brandon Carr) taking pictures with and signing autographs for as many people from the crowd of 2,500 that he could.
So, sure, I concede Smith won’t fill up the stat sheets … or likely put up anything … in 2016, but his personality and potential give you plenty to hope for from the Golden Domer both on and off the field.
And that’s something the Cowboys have had a short supply of in recent years.
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