FORT WORTH, Texas — Editor's note: Get exclusive Cowboys content you'll only find with WFAA main sports anchor Joe Trahan's weekly Cowboys newsletter. The Playbook drops each Friday and gets you ready for each football weekend. Sign up here: wfaa.com/playbook.
Awareness, be it of self or situational, is a critical trait to succeed in comedy, football and life.
“As a kid, I could never imagine any of this turning out the way it did.”
Tyler Smith is aware of his improbable ascent to the NFL.
It’s a journey riddled with adversity and pivotal character-defining moments.
It’s a story he loves to tell. Because, as he says, he’s been blessed to share it.
His love for the game
“When you lay the wood on somebody for the first time, you’re gonna [sic] figure out if football is the sport or not for you.”
Smith fell in love with football on the fields of Fort Worth.
Born and raised in Cowtown, he vividly recalls the moment pigskin made its formative impact.
They ran the Oklahoma drill during a youth football practice and Smith put a lick on the other kid.
There was a gnarly black mark on his helmet displaying the point of contact.
He was hooked.
The kid who took the hit probably not as much.
‘Tough times don’t last’
Smith was a jovial kid with a dry sense of humor. He liked to make jokes or have fun with classmates but also had a good head on his shoulders.
He had to look out for his younger brother, Isaac, and that formed some of the responsible leadership qualities he now exemplifies as a 21-year-old rookie for the Dallas Cowboys.
His mother, Patricia, worked as a Fort Worth middle school teacher when Smith was in grade school.
“I definitely saw the things she did to keep us afloat as a family,” Smith said. “It wasn’t always easy. I remember when we had a car, it caught on fire. When we didn’t have a car, we rode the bus to school.”
As a single mom, the Shreveport native raised two young boys while balancing a full-time job. There were times she worked multiple jobs to provide for her boys.
“There were just a lot of sacrifices made along the way,” Patricia said. “You may pay a little on this bill, so you get your car fixed to get it up and running. So you can get to your second job to make that end meet.”
Despite life’s speed bumps, Patricia made sure the boys had what they needed.
“Christmases were always good, even when it didn’t seem like it was going to be,” Smith recalled fondly. “There was always a surprise she would pull out of her hat.”
“I used to tell Tyler all the time,” Patricia started. “I said, ‘Tyler, I’m a tough ole chick. Tough times don't last but tough people do.’”
When Tyler was in middle school, Patricia spent most of her free time studying to get her Master of Education degree.
She now works for Fort Worth ISD as a curriculum coordinator. Like for Tyler and Isaac, she’s giving other children the foundation to chase their dreams.
“When you think about the material things, that’s great to give your kids but really you want to instill in them moral values,” Patricia explained. “Because you really want to create quality human beings who are going to be an asset to a community.”
Patricia’s work ethic gave Tyler and Isaac what they needed physically, but it also gave them the mental and emotional tools in life to persevere and succeed.
“I’ve always kept moving forward, even when it looked like it was touch and go,” Patricia admitted. “You just have to keep moving forward. Keep the faith. Keep putting that work in because it will pay off.”
That approach to life’s challenges resonated with Smith at a young age.
In high school, his football coach moved him from defensive line to offensive line. It was a decision that upset him, since he was one of the better defensive linemen on the team.
Yet, he accepted his new role and before long it became apparent, he was a natural on the left side of the offensive line.
Smith blossomed into a star at North Crowley High School but suffered a medical setback.
At age 16, he was diagnosed with Blount’s disease – a condition that affects the growth plates in the knees and caused him to be bow legged.
He needed to have a tibial osteotomy where the doctors would, in essence, cut his bones and realign them properly.
He had the procedure done three days after his junior season ended. It was a painful surgery with immense post-op physical therapy and recovery, but Smith returned in time for his senior season.
Unfortunately, the surgery scared off many of the Power Five college recruiters who were previously seriously interested in the 300-plus pound lineman.
Smith committed to Tulsa where, as a redshirt freshman, he was named Freshman All-American in 2020.
As a redshirt sophomore in 2021, he was a second-team all-conference selection.
Following his 2021 season, he received multiple offers from many prominent Power Five schools encouraging him to enter the transfer portal and receive some NIL money.
Smith figured, if the big schools want me to play for them – an NFL team might want to, as well.
He declared for the 2022 NFL Draft and with the 24th overall selection, the Dallas Cowboys brought home their native son.
Like mother, like son
“Just like in high school with the position change or me having my surgery. When I was going to college, I wasn't a highly touted recruit.”
Smith rattles off the adversity he’s endured and overcame. His mom’s name is never far behind.
“A lot of what you see from me is a lot of her,” Smith declared. “It’s never lost on me. How appreciative I am to have had her as a parent, because not many can do it better in my opinion.”
The love is mutual.
“I would just say I’m so proud of him. I don't even know what other words to use but it’s like my heart just burst,” Patricia praised, turning to speak to her son directly. “I am so proud of you, and I am so happy you allowed me to be on this journey with you, son. I love you.”
Smith pauses, then affectionately deadpans, “I love you too, mom.”