I still can’t believe they did it.

With their second-round pick last year, the Dallas Cowboys took Jaylon Smith with the No. 34 overall selection.

The problem with Smith, who had a top-five overall grade by many expert draft analysts, was he completely shredded his knee in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day that year for Notre Dame in its loss to Ohio State.

Sure — many players recover from severe knee injuries in their final year of college and succeed in the NFL, but Smith’s occurred in the last contest of the year and he had to use his rookie season as a redshirt campaign.

There was another problem, however.

Along with tearing the ACL and LCL, Smith suffered severe damage to a vital nerve in the knee. After surgery, there is no guarantee the nerve would ever properly regenerate.

Despite that, Dallas made the plunge and took the high-ceiling linebacker. After all, their own team doctor, Dr. Dan Cooper, operated on Smith’s knee and gave Jerry and Stephen Jones a positive outlook.

They heard what they needed, and they used a premium pick on Smith.

It’s hard not to root for the guy. He’s always positive and has busted his tail just to participate in OTAs, which began this week.

The issue is OTAs are helmets only and very limited in contact, and while the team says Smith has looked excellent running individual and team drills, they are all scripted.

How is he going to hold up when having to change direction and engage with offensive linemen? That’s the million-dollar question, and the answer won’t come till training camp.

With all the sunshine and rainbows being spewed out of the mouths of those at The Star in Frisco, simply let it go in one ear and out the other. Smith needs to go out there in training camp and prove he can play with a brace for drop foot, due to the damaged nerve.

No one at his position has ever done so successfully in the NFL.

It’s easy to pull for Smith, but it’s hard to have any expectations, at all, that he will contribute this season — or ever.

It was a very high-risk, high-reward move by Dallas, and I personally think we’ll find out real soon whether he’ll be able to succeed in the NFL.

Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Previously spent time as sports editor at both the Hereford Brand and the Gatesville Messenger. Graduate of West Texas A&M University.

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