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The Journal Gazette

Friday, August 25, 2017 2:00 am

Notebook: Tranquill thrilled to see Smith playing

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

SOUTH BEND — Drue Tranquill has watched Jaylon Smith make about a zillion tackles over the years, but none were quite as memorable as Smith's first-quarter stop Saturday night in an NFL preseason game.

For nearly 20 months, Smith's playing future was uncertain. Because of nerve damage in his left leg, people wondered if he'd ever be able to play again. When Smith suited up for the Cowboys over the weekend, it was his first game action in 596 days, dating back to his nightmarish injury in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day 2016.

Therefore, Dallas' game against Indianapolis was appointment viewing for Tranquill. He and Smith grew up together in Fort Wayne. They spent three seasons together at Notre Dame. Smith was back, and Tranquill wouldn't have missed it for the world.

"He looked twitchy," Tranquill said. "He looked explosive. He looked good."

Smith played only 12 snaps and finished with just the one tackle, but that night was a sigh of relief for those who care about the Bishop Luers graduate.

"I haven't talked to him recently, but last time I did he said he was doing well," Tranquill said. "Said the nerve was healing, and obviously I think you see that. He looked great."

What's more, Rod Smith, Jaylon's older brother, is on Dallas' preseason roster and was along for the ride on a very special night.

"Him and Rod got to play," Tranquill said. "That was exciting to see. You see Jaylon cheering his brother on, and it's awesome to see."

Still waiting: Safety Alohi Gilman, a transfer from Navy, appealed to the NCAA for a waiver to be immediately eligible to play for Notre Dame. Irish coach Brian Kelly had said he expected a decision this week but, as of Thursday night, hadn't heard from the NCAA.

"Nope," Kelly said. "Nothing yet. I wish I could look into the NCAA crystal ball and give you an indication. I think they're well aware of Alohi's situation relative to wanting to play in the opener (Sept. 2 against Temple). I wouldn't rule it out (that the NCAA decision lingers past Sept. 2). Alohi's really smart. He would know our defense if he were told Saturday morning before Temple that he could play."

Taylor sidelined: Defensive tackle Elijah Taylor is still recovering from a LisFranc injury. Kelly said Taylor won't be ready for the opener.