Tennessee football: What Chiefs fans can expect from Trey Smith

The Daily HeraldTrey Smith was the Knoxville News Sentinel’s Sport
The Daily HeraldTrey Smith was the Knoxville News Sentinel’s Sport /

In a move to fortify their offensive line, the Kansas City Chiefs selected offensive guard Trey Smith with the No. 226 overall pick on Saturday. Smith started 41 games over four seasons with Tennessee football and is one of the most under-appreciated draft-eligible players in this cycle.

Chiefs fans, Smith is a highly intriguing guard prospect that comes with an extraordinary story of overcoming adversity. Here’s some of what you can expect from the type of person and player Andy Reid is bringing to Kansas City.

Trey Smith, the football player:

On paper and film, Trey Smith is a mauler. At 6’6″ 330 pounds, the Jackson, Tenn. native paved the way for Tennessee football running backs and quarterbacks over the last four seasons. Road-grader, pancake maker, whatever you choose to call him, he was an elite offensive lineman in the SEC from the moment he stepped on campus in 2017.

Out of the University School of Jackson, he was ESPN’s No. 1 overall recruit in the 2017 high school recruiting class. Smith chose the in-state Tennessee football program over others like Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia. He quickly earned national media attention as a 247 Sports Freshman All-American following his first season in Knoxville.

Defined by a bull-dozing play-style and cognitive approach to his responsibility in the trenches, Smith played over 2,500 snaps with UT. Conceding just one sack in his final two seasons, Smith earned All-SEC honors thrice and a spot on FWAA’s 2020 All-American Second-Team.

Trey Smith, the person:

It’s right around this time each year we hear head coaches and general managers talk about drafting on skill, but also bringing good people into each organization’s facilities. Maybe Tennessee football fans are a tad biased, but it’d be hard to come by a better person with a more unique story than Smith.

On the surface, he’s a brilliant young man outside of Neyland Stadium. Twice, Smith was named to the SEC Community Service Team, which recognized him as an outstanding member of his community. When cries for racial equality swept the nation last spring, Smith helped organize and lead a march on the University of Tennessee’s campus.

And recently, UT awarded Smith with the highest possible honor a student can receive at the school, the Tennessee Torchbearer Award. He’s a role model for young fans and other students of all backgrounds. But to truly understand what motivates Smith, we must go back to his days as a touted high school recruit.

As noted above, Smith was nationally recognized as one of the top high school talents in the 2017 recruiting class. Above, we listed Alabama, Ohio State and Georgia, but truthfully, he could’ve played college football anywhere he wanted to. Why choose the waning Tennessee Vols over other successfully established programs?

To that question simply, his college decision wasn’t entirely about him. Sure, he was a Tennessee kid with dreams of leaving a legacy at a once prestigious SEC football school. But it was also a chance for Smith, a player with the opportunity to play anywhere he wanted, to show other in-state recruits that playing for the University of Tennessee meant something.

His prideful decision was thoroughly appreciated by fans and coaches. And after a first year that earned him Freshman All-SEC notoriety, Smith’s career was on pace for exactly what it was supposed to be. Things changed in 2018 while preparing for his sophomore season.

Struggling to complete offseason workouts, doctors found blood clots in his lungs. He fought to keep his starting role but was shut down when they reappeared just eight games into the 2018 season. Smith spent the next nine months under cautious surveillance and minimal contact on the football field.

Incredibly, 2019 was the best season of his career. He appeared in all 13 games for the Vols and started 12 of them at left guard. His determination was recognized with the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award, and his fantastic play earned him All-SEC First Team honors. With first-round NFL Draft potential on the horizon, an important promise moved Smith to return to Knoxville for his senior season.

Smith’s mother, Dorsetta, passed away in 2015 when he was still in high school. He promised her he’d complete his college degree wherever he ended up going to school. Not many players can stare a million-dollar contract in the eye and pass on it for a five-year-old promise. But Smith returned to UT the 2020 season as COVID-19 began to change the landscape of college football.

He honored his mother’s wish and completed his degree in Recreation and Sports Management. A player with a history of blood clots in his lungs went through all of the obstacles that COVID-19 presented college football last season – essentially risking his long-term health to finish his education and represent his hometown university.

Yet somehow, his draft stock worsened in the eyes of draft experts over his senior year. The Vols did him no favors, either, as the team went 3-7 and fired its second coach in three seasons. Chiefs fans, you may have it bad. But you don’t have it as bad as Tennessee football fans.

Rocky Top has seen a lot of absurdity over the four seasons Smith spent there. The coach that recruited him was fired following his freshman year. Multiple top prospects have committed and de-committed from the team he played for. And above all else, the Vols have lost. A lot.

But throughout all of the chaos, the only real constant was Smith’s presence on the interior of UT’s offensive line. He was the player that coaches, fans and teammates looked to run behind in big moments. Smith was also the student that classmates rallied behind and looked up to, both literally and figuratively. Chiefs fans, you got a really, really good one here.

Next. NFL Draft grades for every Vol selected since 2017. dark

Playing in the NFL one day was the other part of that promise to his mother. So, Chiefs fans, what can you expect from offensive guard Trey Smith? You just drafted a player that’s playing for something, or really someone, bigger than himself. Hopefully, you will appreciate him the way Tennessee football fans do.