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When Aldon Smith's grandmother passed away, he says he decided to change his life

The new Cowboys defensive end has a laundry list of past transgressions, but says his grandmother's passing was his impetus to atone and change his life.
Credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot
Oakland Raiders linebacker Aldon Smith (99) sits on the bench during an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015.

DALLAS — Aldon Smith's history is pockmarked. Allegations of domestic violence, hit and run, felony possession of a firearm, DUI, and more. It's a laundry list longer than most we've ever seen in professional sports.

Today, he is a Dallas Cowboy. And today, Smith maintains, he is a 'better person'.

As a result, his future could be immensely different from his past.

Aldon says he's sober. And the work he's done over the past year with FOX Sports Jay Glazer and the Merging Vets and Players organization is a major part of his turnaround. Smith has worked with Glazer and the MVP group to get clean, and work back toward a football career. 

But Smith is quick to note -- football wasn't the impetus for becoming a better man.

"The journey to being a better person isn't just so I can get back and play football," Smith said on a conference call with the Cowboys media contingent on Friday. "It's something that I think everybody should have, it's just to be a better person."

Smith was a force during the early years of his career, accumulating sacks at a blistering pace for the San Francisco 49ers, before his career fell apart due to his myriad legal issues.

"It has been a journey, indeed," Smith said. "A journey that I'm grateful for. I've had time to really work on myself and take advantage of all the support and things that have been offered to me."

Smith needed that help from Glazer and others who have supported him. But he also got a push from his late grandmother, Julia Edwards.

"There were a couple moments," Smith said. "I think last year my grandma passed, and she was somebody who was very close to. Around the time she passed, my life wasn't where I wanted it to be. And she was somebody who meant a lot to me."

Edwards had ALS, so she passed 'at an earlier age than she should have,' Smith said. Smith says the last time he saw his grandmother, she could no longer speak. But she still got a message across to him.

"She was able to, you know, get a message to me and that was just 'do better and basically go out here and get what you deserve.' And that's stuck with me," said Smith.

Smith's sobriety is still relatively new. He was arrested on suspicion of DUI last June. But he insists his perspective now is much different than it once was.

"In the past I was a, you know, a young 12 year old or, you know, a young teenage boy in a man's body.  So it was a man on the outside but a boy inside. And the way that I handled the issues, life, and everything was in that immature manner," he said.

Smith said that taking the time to work on himself, allowed him to grow as a man, so his maturity matched his age.

"So the man on the inside fits how the man on the outside looks," he said. "And this has given me a new perspective and outlook on life, and it's allowed me to do things like, be able to return to this sport and feel like I am ready to give it all."

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