Reports indicate that linebacker Aldon Smith could soon return to the San Francisco 49ers after completing his inpatient rehabilitation program. Once he is cleared to play again, can Smith return to the field and shine, despite pending legal problems? Smith should take lessons from teammate Alex Boone who has rebounded nicely from his own past mistakes.
Boone, a talented offensive tackle for Ohio State from 2006-2009, went undrafted by the NFL in 2009 thanks to troubles with alcohol which included a DUI conviction in 2006 and an arrest for public intoxication in 2009. Boone, who started drinking in eighth grade, at one point could consume as many as 30 cans of beer per day. When no NFL team drafted him, Boone, who signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2009, realized he would have to get serious about his alcohol problem. He started seeing a counselor about his drinking, joined Alcoholics Anonymous, and worked to get himself in better physical shape to compete in the NFL.
With help from the 49ers organization, as well as an offseason program in Cleveland, Ohio run by former NFL center LeCharles Bentley, Boone gradually got his life together. He lost weight, gained muscle, refined his football playing techniques, and eventually settled down with a wife and child. He worked hard to transition from a somewhat overweight rookie to now starting guard on the 49ers’ stellar offensive line. Boone spent his rookie season in 2009 on the 49ers’ practice squad and played in just one game in 2010 before moving up to the backup tackle position in 2011. He also saw some playing time that season as an extra blocker. Prior to the 2012 season, the 49ers promoted Boone to starter at right guard. That year, he helped the team earn a spot in the Super Bowl. Now he is an essential part of one of the best offensive lines in the NFL.
Boone’s story illustrates how hard work and discipline pays off even under the most difficult circumstances. He knew it would take time to prove himself, and he has. Smith will be under the same pressure to prove that he can overcome his problems and return to playing excellent football. But unlike Boone, Smith also has serious legal problems from the gun charges he faces. It is also unknown what discipline he will face from the NFL if and when he resolves those legal issues. Smith clearly has a challenging road ahead. But Boone has proven that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. Let’s hope Smith pays attention to the model for success which Boone has provided.
Sara DeBord is an NFL writer for www.footballandfutbol.com and www.baysportsreport.com.