Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
The former NFL star fell on hard times and hasn’t played in since 2016.
Written by Paul Meara
Aldon Smith is getting a new lease on life — literally. The NFL defensive end, who just signed with the Dallas Cowboys after a five-year exile from the league, admits that things got really bad during his imposed hiatus. In a new interview with FOX Sports, Smith reveals he was in a “dark place” and homeless just two years ago.
In 2011, Smith was drafted seventh overall to the San Francisco 49ers and became a breakout player in his rookie season. But after being arrested and suspended on several occasions for substance abuse and personal conduct policy violations, he bounced around teams and eventually was suspended by the Oakland Raiders, who he was playing for at the time, in 2015. He hasn’t played an NFL snap since.
Smith’s life hit a low point in the past couple of years. In June of 2019 he was arrested for DUI in Kansas, and the year before, he hit an all-time low. During an interview with Jay Glazer of FOX Sports on Thursday night (April 9), Smith revealed how hard the past few years have been for him.
“I would say 2018 was a tough year,” he said. “In that year, I was in a really dark place. I didn’t have a lot of value for how I thought about myself. When I was in the bad spot, it got pretty bad. I was sleeping under a car for some nights because my sickness took me there. And I had a home to sleep in. But I was in such a dark place that I didn’t see myself deserving anything other than that.”
Glazer, who is friendly with Smith and witnessed him conquer sobriety over the past nine months, put him in contact with his Merging Veterans and Players Foundation, which Smith says has helped him to progress from the dark place he’s been. According to their website, the foundation creates “an environment where these warriors can share each other’s strength and experience and can support each other in building fulfilling lives of service and strength.”
“At the beginning of it I was a little hesitant to talk but the more I felt comfortable with those people, it really just became so therapeutic for me because I was able to get help for me because I was able to get help for things that I was dealing with and I was also able to help by sharing my story,” Smith said.
Glazer not only had a hand in Smith’s sobriety but also his possible return to the NFL. Smith says he met with new Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy at Glazer’s gym and the two began building a relationship. Additionally, former 49ers coach Jim Tomsula, who was there when Smith played in SF, is now with Dallas, which has provided Smith more familiarity and comfort.
“The pieces fit,” Smith said of joining the Cowboys.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will have the final say as to whether Aldon Smith will get to actually play as he still remains indefinitely suspended.