National Football League
From NFL star to mental health mentor, Aldon Smith joins 'All Facts No Breaks'
National Football League

From NFL star to mental health mentor, Aldon Smith joins 'All Facts No Breaks'

Published Jun. 14, 2024 4:20 p.m. ET

Aldon Smith hopes to encourage players entering the NFL to embrace their mental health through sharing the lessons learned from his professional football career.

The former defensive end is working with both the Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars this season as a mentor for their respective rookie classes. Smith shared that he wants to be the kind of mentor who helps players figure things out rather than one who tells them what to do on the latest edition of Keyshawn Johnson's "All Facts No Breaks" podcast.

"I try to be consistent," Smith said. "I try to be disciplined and honest and do the things that I know I should be doing. Not saying [that] I'm perfect by any means, but I feel like with all the knowledge I've gained, the message I have is gonna be helpful. I'm not here to talk. I'm not here to instruct. I'm just here to give you some ideas and some options to guide you in the right direction."

Smith's decision to become a mentor is the first gig he's held in the NFL since his playing career ended. The 34-year-old was once one of the best pass rushers in the league, becoming a star with the San Francisco 49ers after being drafted in 2011. He had 33.5 sacks in his first two seasons, helping the Niners reach the Super Bowl in 2012.


Smith's career took multiple downturns due to matters off the field. He entered rehab during the 2013 season after being arrested for driving under the suspicion of being under the influence and possession of marijuana. He was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport after he allegedly said he was in possession of a bomb in 2014. Though he wasn't in possession of any bomb, the NFL suspended him nine games for his off-field conduct.

The Niners released him in 2015 after an alleged hit-and-run while driving under the influence. He pleaded no contest to the charge in 2017, serving 20 days of jail time. Smith signed with the Raiders after his release, spending three seasons with them, though he was under suspension for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He was arrested for an alleged domestic violence incident in March 2018, and the Raiders released him shortly after that.

Smith served six months in jail in 2023 for a felony DUI he committed in 2021, rear-ending a work truck on an off-ramp. 

"I say this in the most genuine way: I'm grateful for my journey so far because of where I am now," Smith said about not dwelling on the past. "Just my plan, how I want to interact with this world I'm in and the people I get to meet, I don't think it would have been possible if I didn't have the journey I've had so far. 

"I'm excited for the experience (as a mentor) and I'm excited to be in the position I'm in now."

Aldon Smith sends positive message to Darren Waller, discusses mental health

Smith was able to make his way back into the NFL after the league issued him an indefinite suspension. He played for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020, recording 5.0 sacks on the year. He signed with the Seattle Seahawks in 2021 but was released in training camp of that year.

The DUI that landed Smith in jail occurred four months after his release from prison, and Smith admitted that leaving the NFL can be tough. "I was able to navigate leaving out because of all the things I had learned while I was in [the NFL]," he said. "I hope I get to be able to share that with the guys in the league because honestly, I have a lot to say for the rookies. 

"But for the guys leaving out I feel like it's tougher — it is a little tougher."

Darren Waller was the most recent notable player to hang up the cleats. The former standout tight end announced his retirement in June after months of consideration. As Waller was also suspended for a season by the league before achieving success, Smith wanted to tip his cap to the former tight end.

"First and foremost, congrats — give yourself a pat on the back because you did it," Smith said. "No matter how it ended, you were there. You did something that not a lot of people can do or have achieved."

Smith also offered some advice for Waller and other recently retired players, showing that he's willing to be a mentor for all players, not just rookies. 

"What I found was the relationship with yourself was the most important one," Smith said. "You working on that will be a process of helping you find your purpose and meaning outside of the game, that's something that is a forever process, where you can continually improve on the person you are and develop a relationship so that the external things aren't as important as the internal is."


Get more from National Football League Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more