Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 25, 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 50 of 55 SEPT. 25, 2017 51 IRISH IN THE PROS BY COREY BODDEN T he opening week of the NFL, to most who watched or participated in the game or its set up, was just that — the start of another football sea- son. But for others, it carried much more meaning. Before Sept. 10, it had been more than 18 months since former Irish linebacker Jaylon Smith took snaps in a game that counted toward the win- loss record. His last regular season or postseason action came while he was still a member of the Notre Dame program in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State on Jan. 1, 2016, when he suffered a devastating knee injury. The injury caused the projected top-five pick to fall in the draft — to the second round, where the Dal- las Cowboys grabbed him with the No. 34 overall pick — and some be- lieved he may never play football again. If he did, the thinking was that he wouldn't be near the same All-American player that he was in South Bend. After missing the entire 2016 sea- son, Smith progressed throughout training camp and began taking more and more reps with the Cow- boys' first-team defense. His hard work and dedication was paying off. Then an injury to linebacker Anthony Hitchens provided an opportunity for him to see more time. Smith played in two preseason games, and showed the Dallas coach- ing staff enough improvement to warrant the opportunity to begin the season as the starter against the New York Giants. Smith did not disappoint. In 36 snaps out of a possible 57, per, Smith registered seven total tackles and one forced fumble to help lead the Cow- boys to a 19-3 victory. "It's an honor to be a part of this team, America's Team," Smith told "And to get a win — it's hard to win in the NFL, so you want to enjoy those wins. "For me, it's just about executing and just playing like Jaylon Smith." The next step for Smith is seeing how he handles the workload and responds over an arduous 16-game regular season. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett isn't worried, given Smith's track record. "He is, in fact, coming back from an injury so you keep your eye on him and make sure he's handling it well," Garrett told "But you've heard me say this a lot: he's handled all the work really well, whether it's practice or preseason games or now, his first regular-season game. "He did get 36 snaps in the game. It seems like he handled the work well. "We'll see how he feels over the next couple of days, and we'll keep making the right decision by him and by our team." ✦ Jaylon Smith Shines In First NFL Action Smith started and registered seven tackles with one forced fumble in his first regular-season game in the NFL. PHOTO BY JEREMIAH JHASS/DALLAS COWBOYS NOTRE DAME IN THE NFL: WEEK ONE HIGHLIGHTS • Stephon Tuitt (Played at Notre Dame from 2011-13), DE, Pittsburgh Steelers: On Sept. 9, just be- fore the start of the 2017 season for the Steelers, he signed a brand-new contract which will pay him $61.05 million over six years per The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette … The following day against the Cleveland Browns in the season opener, he suffered a left biceps injury that was feared to be a tear that would require surgery … An MRI revealed no tear and Tuitt remains week to week. • DeShone Kizer (2014-16), QB, Cleveland Browns: In his first professional game, he completed 20 of 30 passes for 222 yards with a touchdown and interception in a 21-18 loss to the Steelers … Also had 17 yards and a touchdown on five rushing attempts. • Golden Tate (2007-09), WR, Detroit Lions: Led the Lions in both receptions (10) and receiving yards (107) in their 35-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals. • Matthias Farley (2011-15), DB, Indianapolis Colts: Started at safety and recorded a team-high 10 tackles (eight solo) in a 46-9 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

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