Over five years ago, then-49ers head coach Jim Tomsula wanted nothing more than to see Aldon Smith back in the NFL after San Francisco cut the oft-troubled defensive star in August 2015.
That eventually happened with Smith signing with the Raiders nearly one month later, but he only lasted nine games with the Silver and Black. Now, Smith is back with Tomsula, who is the Dallas Cowboys' defensive line coach, and the edge rusher already is making an impact.
Smith, now 30 years old, made his Cowboys debut Sunday in Dallas' 20-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, and it was impressive, to say the least. After a five-year absence, Smith looked like his old dominant self. He finished with one sack, 11 tackles -- one for loss -- and two QB hits.
One of his QB hits also led to a Jared Goff interception in the third quarter.
The 49ers selected Smith No. 7 overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. Right from Day 1, he looked like a star. Smith finished second behind Von Miller for Defensive Rookie of the Year after recording 14 sacks, and followed that up with 19.5 sacks in his second season. He totaled 33.5 sacks through his first 32 games.
But Smith ran into a long list of issues off the field. Since 2012, Smith was arrested multiple times for DUIs, had a history of alcohol and substance-abuse related problems and was suspended nine games to start the 2014 season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
Smith also was under investigation by San Francisco police in February 2017 for a possible domestic incident, but was not arrested. On March 4, 2018, Smith fled the scene where San Francisco police officers responded to a domestic-violence complaint. The Raiders released him the next day. Smith turned himself in on March 6, 2018, and was booked on domestic-violence related charges. He then pled not guilty on all charges on March 12.
Later that month, he was arrested for violating a court order by contacting the alleged victim in a domestic violence incident from earlier that March. In November 2018, Smith settled the domestic-violence charges in a deal with prosecutors, pleading no contest to two misdemeanors.
The Cowboys signed Smith on April 2, 2020. He last played in an NFL game on Nov. 15, 2015, when he registered one sack and three tackles in a Raiders' loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Through it all, Tomsula has been outspoken on his support and belief in Smith, who says he currently is sober. The signing has paid off early on for the Cowboys, but Smith must continue proving himself off the field first.
He always has been beyond talented. The monster Smith battles is far more imposing than any left tackle in the league.