Trey Smith

Trey Smith, #73, is one of 20 semifinalists for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award. 

It’s been an odd fall camp and offseason for the Tennessee football team. That isn’t anything new for preseason All-American Trey Smith.

Smith missed five games in 2018 and was questionable to play in each of the last two off seasons over blood clots that forced him on blood thinners, which would put him at risk for contact activity. 

Smith worked around that adversity to become an All-SEC selection a year ago and Smith came back to get his degree and become a first-round pick in the NFL Draft. For him, COVID has changed nothing about the decision he made last January.

“I came back to Tennessee for a reason,” Smith said “To prove myself, to prove that I can play at a high level consistently, so it was not really a hard decision.”

“There are actual standards of how people are affected and I’m not any different. I have read up on COVID-19 and how it could cause blood clots, so if a person gets COVID-19 they are at a higher risk of blood clots than I am.”

After a season where Smith got very little full contact practice time in, the odd camp has actually given him more opportunities to work on improving his game.

“I have gotten to practice a lot more this year than last year,” Smith said. “I think last year I only practiced two times the entire year in full pad practice. … I’m a lot further than I was this time last year in terms of my skills and development. I am very thankful.”

Smith is a clear leader on not only Tennessee’s football team but on the campus as a whole. The senior from Jackson has spoken at and helped organize rallies to speak out against racial injustice while also being at the head of the “wear a mask” campaign.

Smith talked about his leadership and how he applies that to making sure players are doing the right things and aren’t putting themselves in a position where they’re making themselves and their teammates vulnerable.

“That’s a hard thing because at the end of the day, I’m not anyone’s dad or parent,” Smith said. “I’m not around them 24-7, providing for them. I have to have enough faith and I have to trust them enough that they’ll do the right things. In terms of if we see you doing the wrong things, it’s going to get addressed as a team. If you keep doing the wrong things, it’s going to get addressed at the next level. It all falls into trust.”

The amount of time players has missed due to COVID and contact tracing has made it hard for a Vols’ offensive line that returns nearly everyone to build chemistry.

Depth is a strength of Tennessee’s offensive line, and Smith doesn’t see the time missed as a big disadvantage as anyone has to be ready to play this fall.

“I don’t think there’s been a time since I have been here that there has been the same offensive that has played consistently with each other for weeks or months,” Smith said. “Quite frankly with COVID-19 and the issues that come from it, a lot of people are going to play positions that they have never played before, so continuity is definitely going to be an issue, but it’s not only going to be an issue here, it is going to be an issue across the country due to this virus. So, once again it is going to come down to us doing well and completing what the coaches tell us to.”

One question that still remains on the offensive line is Cade Mays eligibility. The Georgia transfer had his request for immediate eligibility denied by the NCAA last month, and 11 days until the Vols’ opener at South Carolina he still awaits word on his appeal.

Smith offered some strong words in support of his teammate and fellow Tennessee native’s case for eligibility. 

“That’s a hard thing because at the end of the day, I’m not anyone’s dad or parent,” Smith said. “I’m not around them 24-7, providing for them. I have to have enough faith and I have to trust them enough that they’ll do the right things. In terms of if we see you doing the wrong things, it’s going to get addressed as a team. If you keep doing the wrong things, it’s going to get addressed at the next level. It all falls into trust.”

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