Houston Texans: UDFA OT Jaryd Jones-Smith’s inspiring road to recovery

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 02: Jaryd Jones-Smith #55 (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 02: Jaryd Jones-Smith #55 (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

The Houston Texans have firmed up the signings of their undrafted free agents (UDFAs) for the start of the 2018 season.  One of the interesting stories is on Jaryd Jones-Smith, who suffered a gruesome injury in college and is clawing his way back.  Let’s get the low down.

The Houston Texans shaping of the roster is starting to come together a bit with the signings of their draft picks as well as the inking of the UDFAs to the 90-man roster, which will have to be trimmed to 53 men before the start of the regular season.

I absolutely love position battles and one of the most important is going to be who is going to man the offensive line for the Houston Texans — protecting Deshaun Watson for the matter — when we approach Week 1?

That answer is not set in stone and there will be a lot of flux depending on who performs the best.  The mainstays on the line are definitely going to be:  Nick Martin, Zach Fulton, Senio Kelemete and Seantrel Henderson.  Outside of those names, the battle is up for grabs although Julie’n Davenport, especially with his strong performance toward the end of the season, is likely to be somewhere on that starting unit.

But an interesting name has surfaced.  That would be one of UDFA offensive tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith who was invited to rookie minicamp and has been signed to the roster.  This is a typical transaction — the team drafts players, they compile a list of who else they wanted and bring them in to workout.

But sometimes we forget that they’re people attached to these transactions with real-life dilemmas that they’ve faced to get where they are today.  We’ve all been through some time of adversity in our lives but I think the story of Jones-Smith is extra special.

Why is that?  The 6-foot-7, 320-pound offensive tackle in Jones-Smith is lucky to be walking on his own two feet these days, let alone trying to make an NFL roster.  He suffered a horrible injury to his leg back in June 2015 where he was jogging off the field post-practice and blew out his knee in the process.

Jenn Menendez of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did an excellent write-up of his recovery from his injury two years ago and she doesn’t hold back with the details of what exactly happened to him.

She describes the injury and one of those experienced by “car-wreck victims,” not the end-result of the everyday grind out on the gridiron.

Here’s the description of what exactly happened:

"“Jones-Smith tore three of four ligaments, ripped two more muscles and sat in agony as the tibia bone twisted completely backward under his knee and put pressure on a major artery, cutting off blood flow to his leg.”"

There was talk by one of Pitt’s team physicians, Dr. Volker Musahl, about amputating his leg in order to give him some relief.  Musahl abated that and was able to save not only an important appendage but likely Jones-Smith’s daily motivation to keep his spirits up by being able to continue his career in football.

Although if the latter would’ve had to happen, he would’ve been happy there was some relief to

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his injury but he’d always wonder in his mind how things would’ve panned out had he not sustained the injury.

His recovery took 15 months to complete — missing the entire 2015 season — and I’m sure he was more than ecstatic when he stepped out onto the field for the first time after sustaining such a malady.

Pitt eased him back into the rotation in 2016, having appeared in eight games with getting only one start lined up at a 6th offensive lineman.  Pitt’s offensive line has been regarded as one of college football’s most-fierce units so I’m sure that additional help was more than welcomed from Jones-Smith.

Last season, he was back in the starting lineup, appearing in all 12 games at right tackle and earning him a spot to play in the East-West Shrine Game to which that’s where the Houston Texans became acclimated with him.  The rest is history.

Jones-Smith put up a 44.5 overall grade for 2017 as per Pro Football Focus off 604 snaps — 305 pass block, 295 run block — along with allowing 16 hurries, six sacks, four quarterback hits and two penalties.

Although these numbers don’t jump off the page at you, his strongest suits as per PFF are minimizing his penalties — which means he’s a sharp student of the game — and his screen-pass protection, which is important, because I’m sure Watson will be running a lot of those type of plays to throw defenses off throughout the season.

With the needs this offensive line has to address going through the season, I’d say that he’s got an excellent shot to get the start at right tackle, his natural position.  If not, there’s always Chris Clark but if this kid can prove that he’s even better, then there’s no need to retread the Houston Texans offensive line of yesteryear.

Next: Top Undrafted players in Texans history

All in all, Jones-Smith is that type of player that you root for his success just a bit more than the others because he’s faced hardship before and now’s he’s up against it again to carve out a career in the pros.

Good luck to you Jaryd — stay strong my brother.