Smith won the Butkus Award as college football's top linebacker in 2015. 

By Daniel Rapaport
August 15, 2017

Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith will make his long-awaited return to the playing field in Dallas' preseason game against the Colts on Saturday. 

At Notre Dame, Smith won the 2015 Butkus Award as college football's top linebacker and was projected to be an early first-round pick before he suffered a serious knee injury vs. Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Smith tore his ACL and LCL and suffered nerve damage to his left knee, which caused him to drop to the second round, where the Cowboys selected him 34th overall. 

There was some doubt as to whether Smith would ever take the field again, as his initial recovery stalled, but he took off the entire 2016 NFL season to let the knee heal. That patience has paid off; Smith has participated in nine of the Cowboys' 13 padded practices  and took some first team snaps in place of Sean Lee, who sat out with a hamstring injury, according to. ESPN

Smith suited up for the Cowboys' preseason opener against the Cardinals but did not see action.

"I know he is driven. He is focused," Jones told reporters at training camp. "If he can come out and contribute and have success, no one deserves it more than him. It's been real hard work and preparation, really overcoming his challenges. Nobody deserves it more than Jaylon. He has put that in and earned the respect of everybody associated with the Cowboys."

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