"Oh man, well I played an entire season in the National Football League. I played every game, started [six] of them, improved each week," Smith said Tuesday on KRLD-FM, via the Dallas Morning News. "I feel amazing. Just the overall comfort of everything I had to go through, it was just a tremendous first year, and it's going to be a great one this year."
The linebacker compiled 81 tackles, fourth-most on the team last season, despite playing a rotational role. Smith began the 2017 season starting the first five games. Dallas then moved Hitchens to the starting gig, preferring to lighten Smith's load.
Smith was at his best last season playing downhill but struggled at times with his lateral quickness, which was to be expected after dealing with a drop-foot condition stemming from his torn-up knee.
The 22-year-old believes the further he gets from the injury, the better player he'll become in Dallas. Smith noted he feels "substantially better" than 2017.
"It showed on the field, week by week my growth, my comfort and just being able to play the position again," he said. "I'm prepared and I'm ready to tackle even more this year. It's going to be a great year."
Once deemed a top-10 draft pick before the devastating injury, Smith showed flashes of his natural ability last season. With holes throughout the defense, the Cowboys are hoping and praying to see more of it in 2018.
Dallas went on a limb to use a second-round selection on a linebacker some medical analysts believed would never return to form. If he progresses in a full-time role this season, the Cowboys will be justified in their decision.