FRISCO, Texas – The opportunities just keep presenting themselves.
Devin Smith would have been a story this week, regardless – but that story suddenly has added significance heading into Week 3.
Just one day after Smith lead the Cowboys in receiving yards and scored a 51-yard touchdown against Washington, it was revealed that Michael Gallup would require a knee surgery that would sideline him for up to a month.
All of a sudden, last week’s feel-good story could be this week’s starting wide receiver. Faced with Gallup’s absence, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he expects to lean on both Smith and Cedrick Wilson, who made his regular season debut on Sunday.
“I think we feel good about how those two guys performed yesterday,” he said. “They got a chance to go in there and play and they stepped up and you just have to keep kind of giving them shots and hopefully they’re confidence will build as they go.”
It’s crazy to think how far Smith has come in just a few short weeks. Even early on in training camp, the former second-round draft pick was lost in the shuffle behind intriguing rookies like Jon’Vea Johnson and Jalen Guyton. It wasn’t until he started showing out in the Cowboys’ preseason game that he started to garner attention.
“He caught some balls and made some plays and you could see his confidence grow as he was making those plays -- and then the next week, and then the next week,” Garrett said. “I think he started to get a little bit of his spirit back and his confidence back and it's showing up in his play."
Obviously, the story goes back way further than that. The reason Smith was available for the Cowboys to sign back in January was a rash of injuries that robbed him of a career in New York. The Jets drafted the speedster 37th overall back in 2015 with hopes that he’d take the top off opposing defenses for years to come.
It never panned out, as two separate ACL injuries to the same knee limited him to just 14 games. He was released in July of 2018 and sat out all of last year.
“All the injuries I’ve been through and the time I’ve missed just playing this game,” Smith said Sunday. “Just to be back on the football team, being around these guys – it means a lot.”
Specifically, Smith said the support he’s received in the locker room has been the most meaningful part. The happiness for him in the postgame locker room was obvious, as everyone from Jerry Jones to Dak Prescott – not to mention all his fellow receivers -- gushed about him.
“That boy works hard,” said Michael Gallup. “He went through some surgeries, and it’s his time to shine. It’s been a long time coming for him, and we’re all just very proud of him.”
At one point during the postgame media scrum, a reporter confused Smith with Devin Street, the former Cowboy receiver with a similar name – something Amari Cooper couldn’t let happen in the wake of Smith’s big day.
“I can’t let you do that,” he said with a laugh.
For a guy who had such a lengthy journey back to the playing field, let alone the end zone, the support hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“Every time I make a play, they’re always right there, cheering me on and keeping me encouraged,” Smith said. “It feels great just to have this moment.”
From the sounds of it, there’s a chance for Smith to stockpile some more moments. As the No. 5 receiver on the team, he managed just six offensive snaps in Week 1 against the New York Giants. That count jumped to 18 last week, partially because Tavon Austin was out with an injury.
“That’s kind of how it’s been through this whole process,” Smith said. “Whatever opportunity I get, just try to take full advantage of it.”
Gallup’s injury is another chance. All of a sudden, Smith has an opportunity to start for the Cowboys. And even if he doesn’t, his snap count is bound to skyrocket – especially if Austin is once again unavailable.
If the past month is any indicator, Smight might just take that opportunity and run with it.
“It’s not really me trying to prove to people. I know my ability and all my teammates know my ability,” he said. “That’s the only thing that matters to me. Every opportunity I get to showcase my skill, I’m here for it.”