Aldon Smith wants to play in the NFL again. Not just for himself, but for others who have been through similar personal struggles.
Smith, the seventh overall draft pick by the 49ers in 2011, signed a one-year deal with the Cowboys last week. Currently suspended for past violations of the league's substance abuse and personal conduct policies, he hopes to be reinstated by the NFL after spending the last four and a half years out of football. According to reports, he has been clean and sober for months.
Thursday, Smith spoke to FOX Sports' Jay Glazer about his time away from football and the battle to get his life and career back on track.
"It's been a whole lot of soul searching. It's been a journey filled with ups and downs," Smith said. "And during the process, during the journey, there's been some self-inflicting wounds. But in the process I came out with a better understanding of who I am and what I want for my life. It gave me a greater appreciation for the game I'm blessed to play."
Smith, 30, was a pass-rushing force early in his career. His 19.5 sacks helped San Francisco reach the Super Bowl in 2012, and he has 47.5 sacks in 59 career games. But off-the-field issues led to suspensions and ended stints with the 49ers and Raiders.
Smith said 2018 was a particularly tough year away from the game.
"I didn't have a lot of value for how I thought about myself," he said. "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."
Now in a much better place, Smith hopes a return to the NFL would help inspire others dealing with personal issues.
"I believe that with the platform the NFL
gives players and particularly me with the things that I've gone through and things I've learned, it would give me a chance to help out others," he said.