Good things happen for good people. Yesterday the Dallas Cowboys rewarded former Notre Dame great Jaylon Smith with a massive extension. In an offseason that has been tumultuous for their organization, the Cowboys inked Jaylon Smith signed a 5-year extension worth $64 million bucks.
As a Notre Dame fan in my mid 20’s, I haven’t been fortunate enough to see a national championship. The biggest wins I’ve seen in my life have mostly been regular-season wins against Oklahoma, Michigan, and USC.
If we are honest here, most of my most prominent memories of Notre Dame football are heartbreaking losses. I’ll never forget where I was for the Bush push, and I’ll never be as befuddled as I was at the Florida State pick play.
Notre Dame fans my age have seen plenty of depressing stuff, but perhaps the most heartbreaking memory had nothing to do with the outcome of the game on New Year’s day 2016, and everything to do with watching #9 in blue and gold carted off the field with tears in his eyes.
— theScore (@theScore) April 30, 2016
Being smashed in between the 2012 and 2018 season doesn’t do the 2015 season justice. Although their final record didn’t indicate it, it could be argued that roster had more talent than any team Brian Kelly has coached at Notre Dame.
The offensive line depth chart alone from that team would make NFL GMs salivate. Ronnie Stanley and Nick Martin were off to the NFL after and the then younger Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson were on their way to becoming stars. The D-line featured Romeo Okwara and Sheldon Day who are both making a living on Sundays.
Will Fuller, Equanimeous St. Brown, CJ Prosise, Dexter Williams, and Miles Boykin were just some of the athletes on that team. For whatever you think of him, Deshone Kiser was a 2nd round draft pick at QB.
Among all these athletes who made names of themselves at one of the most prestigious and storied football programs in the land, one player stood out.
“Who is that?!” was something I was frequently asked by anyone at the Saturday happy hour who noticed how fixated on the TV I was. I never needed any clarity when answering “that is Jaylon Smith.”
The athleticism was so eye-popping. He was the type of guy I could ask my Grandma who the best player on the field was, and she would be able to tell me it was number 9 quickly.
Athleticism was undoubtedly part of what made watching Jaylon carted off the field at Fiesta Bowl so tough. Knowing that he lived up to the hype at every step of the way made it even harder.
Notre Dame has had its fair share of big recruits over the Kelly era. A fair number of them, however, have not worked out for whatever reason whether its academics or just being an idiot. Jaylon was a 5-star recruit that no doubt played like one, but acted like one.
There was no academic fraud or getting arrested with this guy. He showed up went to class and played ball on Saturday, and he played it particularly well during the 2015 season.
2015 was fun early. The Irish thrashed Texas, and not even an early-season injury to starting quarterback Malik Zaire slowed the Irish too much. They lost a close one at Clemson but were in contention for the playoff most of the season.
Jaylon was putting together quite a season racking up 115 tackles and captaining the defense. Everyone knew that it would probably be his last season in South Bend considering he was being touted as a top 10 pick most of the season.
First time I studied Jaylon Smith at Notre Dame, I thought I was watching Patrick Willis 2.0. I was at the Fiesta Bowl when he suffered that gruesome injury. I wasn’t so sure we’d ever see that level of play from him again. So happy he’s all the way back and he’s been rewarded!
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) August 20, 2019
A devastating loss to Stanford pushed ND out of the playoff but set up an intriguing Fiesta Bowl matchup with a loaded Ohio State team that managed to screw up their own season despite having an ungodly amount of talent.
The talk leading up to that game was about the matchup Smith would have with Zeke Elliot, but as we know Smith would suffer the devastating injury in the 1st quarter, and Elliot would proceed to run all over the Irish in a 28-44 loss.
Any loss usually would make a fan like myself angry, but Ohio State would often hurt more. As a kid who grew up in Ohio, dealing with THE Ohio state fan base is more miserable than having teeth pulled.
On that particular day, the loss was one of the furthest things from my mind. The disparaging thought dwindled the importance of winning a meaningless bowl game that a young man who had given everything to Notre Dame was suddenly at risk of never playing another down of football. A kid whose athleticism was worth millions of dollars a few hours earlier was suddenly maybe not worth anything.
If you had asked me that day, I would’ve told you his career was over.
Luckily for Smith, I was not an NFL talent evaluator, and the Dallas Cowboys had the foresight to gamble on Smith with their second-round pick. Guess they figured if he was 50% of the player he was before the injury that he was still a good player.
Jaylon would miss his rookie season but would go onto become a force for the Cowboys the past two seasons. Over that span, he has racked up 249 tackles, and this past season he pulled in 4 sacks.
So the first lucrative deal that Dallas gives out this summer is not to Ezekiel Elliott nor Dak Prescott nor Amari Cooper, but LB Jaylon Smith.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 20, 2019
Three and a half years ago I would’ve bet against Jaylon Smith. Jaylon Smith bet on himself, and it worked out well for him.
3 and a half years ago on Jan 1st, 2016,
Tears in my eyes,
My life changed forever.
I embraced each moment.
I had a focused vision, determined belief and now I have earned one of my dreams! #ClearEyeView | #DallasCowboys pic.twitter.com/xqNDGFNSFS
— Jaylon Smith (@thejaylonsmith) August 20, 2019
In a week we will probably move on from this story, and be focused on Louisville, but for today let’s appreciate that sometimes good things happen to good people.