The Irish have had few pure athletes quite like Jaylon Smith. 6-3, 237 lb he could run the 40 in 4.5 seconds.
In High School he became a five-star recruit and led Bishop Luers in Fort Wayne, Indiana to four State Championships. He committed to Brian Kelly to play in South Bend in June of 2012 and arrived on campus in August of 2013.
Jaylon immediately had an impact, starting all 13 games and recording 67 tackles his freshman year. Brian Van Gorder took over as defensive coordinator in 2014 and moved Smith to an inside backer position. That season he led the team in tackles with 112 and earned his first all-American recognition.
His national reputation growing, he embarked on a tremendous junior year that ended in calamity. Again, starting all 13 games, he totaled 115 tackles and won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top college linebacker and was a consensus all-American.
The 2015 Irish had run to a solid 10-2 regular season and earned a Fiesta Bowl berth against Ohio State. Smith was flying high and was widely expected to be a top five pick in the 2016 NFL draft.
That is when misfortune hit.
Many Notre Dame fans will recall the sickening feeling they had when they saw Smith go down with a devastating knee injury early in the Fiesta Bowl. Not just another ACL tear, the damage was more extensive than that and required surgery, and an excruciating and extensive rehab.
The Dallas Cowboys took a calculated risk and drafted Smith early in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft. Forced to be inactive in that first season, Jaylon worked his way back to health and made his NFL debut in 2017. Some say Smith never was quite the same player he was before the devastating injury, but he has gone on to a productive as well as lucrative NFL career.
Impact player, Butkus Award winner and consensus all-American JAYLON SMITH: another Fighting Irish Preview, ALL-TIME IRISH HERO.