Trey Smith earned a plethora of honors in his four seasons as a starting offensive lineman at Tennessee. Smith, who graduated from Tennessee in December of 2020 with a degree in sports and recreation management, was a member of the Freshman All SEC team, a two time First Team All SEC selection and a Second Team All American, according to the AFCA and FWAA.
However, Smith’s impact went far beyond what he did on the football field in Knoxville, and for him nothing was more important than honoring his late mother and graduating from Tennessee.
“My mom was sick. I promised that I’d receive my degree and diploma and that I would play in the NFL one day,” Smith said when he announced his plans to return to Tennessee for his senior season. “I wanted to be 100% sure of my decision. With that being said, I’ll honor my mother Dorsetta Smith. I’ve made up my mind, and I don’t expect to ever look back. I’m going to stay at the University of Tennessee.”
Smith was widely considered one of the SEC and nation’s best offensive lineman following his junior season. Still, Smith opted not to jump to his professional career, remaining in Knoxville one final season to get his degree and to improve his NFL Draft stock.
“In the end, I hadn’t received my degree yet,” Smith said. “Of course, if I did make the decision to go to the NFL, the day I was done playing I’d come back to finish my degree. It’s one of the things she always emphasized growing up. You have to get an education. It’s something they can never take away from you.”
The Jackson, Tennessee, native was revered in Knoxville from the moment he arrived on campus in 2017. Smith was a consensus five-star recruit and ESPN’s No. 1 high school player in the country.
Smith could have played college football at any school in the country but instead opted to play for the home state, struggling Vols instead of going to national power Alabama.
That alone was enough to win the admiration of Tennessee fans, but the 6-foot-6 offensive guard would earn the love of Vol fans over the next four years for his resilience, charitable heart and toughness on the field.
After an impressive freshman campaign, Smith’s football career hit a snag as it was revealed he had blood clots following the season. For months it was unclear if Smith would ever play football again.
Through a detailed plan that didn’t allow Smith to practice with contact while taking blood thinners, the Tennessee native returned to the field in 2018, playing in seven games before a medical setback sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Still, Smith fought through the adversity to become an All SEC lineman in 2019 and 2020.
Off the field, Smith consistently gave back to the community, getting named to the All SEC Community Service Team twice, in large part due to his work with the Knoxville Area Rescue Ministry’s “Coats for the Cold” drive.
Smith also helped plan Tennessee Athletics’ march on campus last August to protest against systemic racism.
Smith’s work off the field helped make him the first ever Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award.
In the classroom, Smith was just as excellent as he was on the field and in the community, being honored with the 2021 Tennessee Torchbearer Award, making him the first football player to earn the honor since Josh Dobbs did in 2016.
“I’m just so blessed and fortunate that I came to the University of Tennessee, that I made the decision to come to this school. I thank God for it every day, for the position in life because of Him,” Smith said in acceptance. “At the end of the day, if there’s anything I can do to help other people I’ll never hesitate to do it.”
After graduating from college and honoring the first promise he made to his mother, Smith now turns to the next, to become a NFL football player.
While the lingering health concerns with his blood clots will be a question, Smith’s talent will keep him as a sure fire draft pick.
The versatile offensive lineman will look to bring the same thing to the NFL that made him successful in college: a tough-nosed, physical approach to the game.
“I’m definitely going to be a tone-setter. I’m going to be a guy that when things aren’t going our way, I’m trying to be the most violent dude out there,” Smith said. “I’m trying to set the tone from play one to the end of the game. I’m going to try to be a mainstay on the offensive line for years and years and years to come. I’m not trying to give my position up either.”
Smith is projected as a second or third round pick in this month’s NFL Draft. The Jackson native came to Knoxville as hyped as any recruit in recent memory. He leaves not only incredibly decorated on the field, but off as well, all while honoring Dorsetta Smith’s memory.