In 2008, my 21 year old cousin got his second DUI. His parents couldn't really afford to help him, and this was a kid who just kept making dumb mistakes. He'd already been in trouble when he was younger for petty theft. He'd spent time in juvenile hall. His circle of friends was composed of entirely shady people. Now, he was facing huge fines, jail time, and many other consequences. This was a huge turning point in his life. His family had basically given up on him. He had already given up on himself. I never gave up on him.
Five years later, my cousin is starting his last semester of college before he graduates and probably starts making more money than I do. He persevered. He's a winner. Young people MAKE MISTAKES. Some people take longer than others to mature.
Aldon Smith has done even dumber things than my cousin did, especially when you consider that Aldon has had a hall-of-fame caliber start to his NFL career, and he's still on his rookie contract. His downward spiral has been well documented, starting with a "WTF are you thinking" wanna-be thug frat-style house party and ending under a tree an hour before a team meeting. The time has finally come for Aldon where all of these stupid decisions have really caught up to him.
Now comes a long and difficult process of self-evaluation, dealing with consequences, and a crossroads which will really decide what kind of person Aldon Smith will be. This is a very difficult, traumatic, and important time in Aldon's life. It is very easy for someone in that position to feel as though the burden is too great and that they can't really reform, that the consequences of past actions are too great to ever recover, and that taking the path that can get your life back on the right track is far to difficult. There is only one thing that will get him to the other side. Family.
Since Jim Harbaugh became the head coach, the 49ers have constantly come to players defenses in the media, shown tremendous loyalty to their players and promoted a TRUE culture of family within the team and the organization. When Aldon returned to the team facilities after his discharge from the rehab center, he came with his mother. Aldon missed both of his families.
Some may contend that he's being rushed back on to the field, and that he ought to sit out the rest of the season so he can deal with his issues. I would strongly disagree with that. Being back on the field will give him purpose. It will be an everyday reminder of what he could loose if he slips back to his old ways. It will reunite him with his team, coach, support network, and true family who has had his back through every step of this process. I am rooting for him to overcome, succeed and truly grow from his past mistakes, and I think the 49ers organization has done everything possible to give Aldon the chance to do that.