Trey Smith had been waiting for months on the news he received on Wednesday. For Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt, it meant a sigh of relief that had been building up since October.
Smith, on the advice of both university and family doctors, will be available for the Vols on Saturday as they open up the 2019 regular season against Georgia State.
“This is something that Trey and his family decided to do,” Pruitt said. “Along with our doctors here at the university and people across the country, (we) have come up with a plan for him to be able to play the game that he loves.”
Smith has not taken a snap of actual game action since UT’s 58-21 loss to Alabama in Knoxville last season. He also did not participate in Tennessee’s spring practice session in April.
A freshman All-American in 2017, Smith shifted from guard to offensive tackle before settling on a permanent spot at that position heading into 2018. Despite not participating in many full-contact drills in practice, UT’s medical staff feels that the Jackson, Tennessee native is ready to go.
“It’s a plan that our doctors came up with and as far as playing in the game Trey is like any other guy on our team,” Pruitt said. “He’ll definitely play some. How much? I don’t know.”
While Pruitt isn’t sure exactly how many snaps Smith will partake in, he’s confident that the former five-star recruit can contribute.
For Smith, that’s meant a lot of time in the weight room since he was cleared by doctors to resume his workouts.
Dropping nearly 50 pounds since Pruitt’s initial hire in January 2018, Smith’s physical conditioning is as good as its been since he committed to Tennessee. Even in the face of incredible obstacles, he managed to keep his fitness regime intact.
"(He's) probably in the best shape of his life. I think he weighs about 320 pounds,” Pruitt said. “When we got here he weighed 365, so he’s worked really hard and I’m proud that he’s getting an opportunity to do what he loves to do.”
Smith appeared in seven games for the Vols last season until he was shut down following the discovery of blood clots in his lungs. It marked the second time in as many seasons that Smith would receive that diagnosis.
Most doubted whether or not Smith would ever be able to take the field again. His own coach couldn’t provide answers regarding his status for months.
Behind closed doors, the former University School of Jackson product was quietly building a plan with Tennessee’s medical staff that not only would allow him to play, but allow him to potentially have long-term success.
That’s been the goal from the beginning and now that that has been reached, Pruitt and his staff will not be leaving anything to chance going forward. Smith certainly won’t either.
“I’m sure Trey has wanted to play the entire time, there hasn’t been any secrets about that,” Pruitt said. “Which is why him and his family have thoroughly investigated this, along with our medical staff to give him the best opportunity to have success, not only right now, but for the rest of his life.”