Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith has been through a lot in his season-and-a-half in the National Football League. As the No. 9 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft and the youngest player in the league last season, Smith overcame the lack of an NFL offseason due to the lockout to start all 16 games at right tackle, missing just eight of the Cowboys' 1,048 offensive snaps. Smith was moved to left tackle this season and hasn't missed a snap as he anchors an offensive line which ranks third in Football Outsiders' "Adjusted Sack Rate" entering Week 9.
While the 21-year-old has admirably handled his business on the field, Smith has been quietly dealing with family issues off it. Specifically, several members of Smith's family are seeking larger pieces of the four-year, $12,496,098 contract Smith signed on July 28, 2011.
According to Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News, Smith called Dallas police on Tuesday afternoon to his North Dallas home as two of his three sisters, along with another unidentified individual, had arrived to "harass and torment" the 6-foot-5, 307-pound left tackle for their own financial gain.
The report goes on to state that Smith filed a protective order that keeps his mother and stepfather from having any contact with him. Smith is from Southern California and the Cowboys spent part of training camp in Oxnard. The protective order kept his family from visiting camp and at least one family member had to be removed from the facility, George adds.
"Lesser means were tried and they weren't successful," said John Schorsch, one of Smith's Dallas-based attorneys. "You can use your own imagination as to what it took for a guy that big and that imposing to be that worried."
When it comes to avoiding being used like an ATM machine by family members, athletes should take any steps available and necessary, including the involvement of authorities. While most players don't mind supporting the family financially, lines have to be established as it's the athlete who is putting his life and physical well-being on the line each and every week and those large paychecks do not last forever.
The earlier a player realizes that, the less likely he is from becoming the next Adam "Pacman" Jones, who told rookies at this year's symposium that he blew $1 million in a single weekend. Jones is making the league minimum from the Cincinnati Bengals, and he's one of the lucky ones. Free-agent quarterback Vince Young's financial struggles were well-chronicled this summer, as has the saga of future Hall of Fame wide receiver Terrell Owens. Financial problems, aided by the strain of having to support an extended family after his playing career was over, was an issue at the heart of the tragic end of Junior Seau's life.
While Smith's contract guarantees him nearly $12.5 million over four seasons, the money was not distributed evenly as 63.7 percent of the contract was paid out over the first eight months. Smith earned $375,000 in base salary in 2011, which is usually doled out in weekly installments ($22,059 per week, before taxes), and received a $7,588,072 signing bonus, nearly half of which ($3,759,036) was deferred until March 15, 2012. Smith has base salaries of $943,004 in 2012, $1,511,009 in 2013 and $2,079,013 in 2014, the fourth and final year of the deal. The Cowboys have from between the final game of the 2013 regular season and May 3, 2014 to exercise their "fifth-year option" on Smith for the 2015 season. That option will be worth the value of the Transition tag for the 2014 season and guaranteed for injury only, with the amount becoming fully guaranteed if Smith remains on the Cowboys' roster on the first day of the 2015 league year.