BY BY BIANCA MUJICA
Playing the first regular-season game of his rookie year, linebacker Jaylon Smith was a surprise success against the New York Giants.
After suffering a knee injury in early January 2016, Smith dedicated himself to rehab in hopes of a quick recovery. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Smith’s attitude toward healing was so optimistic it reminded him of Michael Irvin, the Cowboys Hall of Famer from the 90s.
“(Smith) had what I call that Michael Irvin rehab instinct,” Jones said. “(Irvin) found out how bad he needed football, wanted to be a football player, and he rehabbed accordingly when he got hurt his second year with the Cowboys. With all of that in mind, that gave you a pretty inside track on being able to say Jaylon Smith is going to get here.”
The plan for Sunday’s game was to rotate between Smith and linebacker Justin Durant. But the game played out in Smith’s favor, so he got more opportunities and ended up forcing a fumble.
After the game, Smith expressed gratitude for the support from his teammates and the motivation they give him.
“Now I get a chance to contribute on the highest level,” Smith said. “They believed in me from day one. That’s the biggest thing I get — when guys are patting me on the back or coming to shake my hand or telling me good job. They trust in me, and I’m going to get my job done.”