Aldon Smith's return to the NFL after a four-year hiatus still hasn't felt real for the new Dallas Cowboys edge rusher.
"The whole thing is surreal. I don't know if it's sunk in yet," Smith told Jay Glazer on FOX Sports 1 Thursday night. "It's truly, it's just been amazing. I'm so fortunate that it's worked out."
Despite a star-trajectory to start off his career, Smith hasn't played in the NFL since 2015, and currently remains indefinitely suspended for a string of off-field issues, including multiple DUIs.
When the San Francisco 49ers cut bait after four years, Smith signed in Oakland in 2015 but played just nine games before he was again suspended. The edge rusher has been out of football since.
In 2018, the Raiders finally cut Smith from his tolling contact after he was named in a domestic violence incident. Smith told Glazer that year was the low-point in his life.
"I would say, 2018 was a tough year," he said. "I was in a really dark place. I didn't, you know, have a lot of value for how I thought about myself. It got pretty bad that 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."
Smith got out from under that car and ultimately made his comeback.
Partnering with Glazer's MVP Foundation, which merges military veterans and NFL players, Smith began to get himself back on track. Glazer noted that Smith has been sober and working out with him for the past nine months.
It was at Glazer's gym that Smith's opportunity with the Cowboys budded. New coach Mike McCarthy came to visit.
"When we met, it seemed like we had known each other," Smith said. "That was really important to me, because going through this process, I wanted to surround myself with people who I felt that connection with. I felt like he genuinely cares about me and just what I'm trying to do -- just me as a man. That was really important. That obviously played a vital role."
The NFL still needs to reinstate Smith before the 30-year-old's return can be realized. It's something the Cowboys expect to happen. Smith hopes his experience can be a lesson for all who struggle with addiction and self-erosion.
"It's been a whole lot of soul-searching. It's been a journey, you know, it's been filled with ups and downs. During the process, during the journey, there's been some self-inflicting wounds. In the process, I came out with a better understanding of who I am and what I want from my life. And it gave me a great appreciation for the game that I've been blessed to play, and I'm just so excited that the Cowboys, the NFL, have given me a chance to come back and finish what I started."