FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Jaylon Smith, Bishop Luers High School graduate and linebacker for the NFL’s New York Giants, was in the Summit City Friday for a pop-up shop for his new clothing brand The Cycle.

The clothing line is one of Smith’s latest projects he launched with his childhood friend Aaliyah Gaines. The two grew up together on the south side of Fort Wayne.

“We grew up here on the southside of town, Village Woods, we used to walk to elementary school together,” Smith said. “She’s very creative, she’s very artistic.”

With their new brand, they merged their passion for art to create clothing of substance and quality. Smith told WANE 15’s Briana Brownlee that the purpose of the cycle is to unite the mind and body through art and fashion.

“Much of this product line that we are dropping here today, our whole message is ‘life is a cycle,’ that is why the brand is called The Cycle,” Smith said. “Any type of experience that you are going to endure someone has been through that in some form of way. It’s history repeating itself. The more we can understand that life is a cycle the better we can navigate it.”

When it comes to experiencing different curve balls that life can throw a person’s way, Smith has had his fair share. During his last season with Norte Dame, the standout linebacker suffered a career-threatening knee injury at the 2016 Fiesta Bowl game against Ohio State. The timing couldn’t be worse because he was entering the NFL draft.

Smith was a potential top-five prospect, but the Dallas Cowboys took him as a 34th overall pick. After being rehabilitating his injury Smith spent five seasons with the Cowboys. During the 2021 mid-season roster cuts, a shocking turn of events happened when Smith was cut from the franchise. He was later picked up by the Green Bay Packers, but after four games he was released. The New York Giants later signed him and he is still active on their roster.

“For us as humans, it’s important that we stay humble. It’s important that we do what might be difficult at times and that’s looking in the mirror,” Smith said. “For me, it’s about creating a vision. From everything that I have been through has made me a better man today. This year, this past season was just an amazing ride. I got to get to experience so many different things from vulnerability to adversity. Whenever your experience adversity it’s an opportunity to persevere.”

Smith added that the 2021 season was the first time he truly experienced the business and political side of the National Football League. He said that experience is what helped him grow and it ties in with The Cycle’s brand.

His clothing line represents the cycle he went through over the past few years, tying in all of the positivity and negativity that can happen in life. He added that The Cycle is a representation of the four elements of life which are fire, water, earth and air.

“We all resonate with all of those four elements in some shape or form,” Smith said. “For us, it was about bringing that artistic feature to it and understanding that we can have art and substance.”

Smith and Gaines both were at Laced Midwest at Glenbrook Square to showcase their global brand. The community was able to get a look at some of the items, take photos with Smith and receive autographs. The two said their love for the Fort Wayne community helps drive them to make The Cycle a success.

“[Jaylon] came to me and said he wanted to do something for the city so he came up with The Cycle,” said Gaines. “[The community] pours into us and we want to pour into them. Throughout the year you guys will see different events and different ways we plan on giving back and give to our community through this brand.”

Gaines described the brand as something that is different and hasn’t been done before. She hopes the community in a small city can be inspired by the art they are creating.

Smith said the future is looking bright and for the next NFL season he is excited to get back to playing the game he loves.