KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee football junior offensive lineman Trey Smith announced on Thursday that he will return to the Volunteers for his senior season during a press conference at the Ray and Lucy Hand Digital Studio.
In an homage to Peyton Manning, who famously returned to Tennessee for his senior season in 1997, Smith said: “I’ve made up my mind and don’t expect to ever look back. I’m going to stay at the University of Tennessee.”
During his speech at the podium, Smith stated that he promised his late mother, Dorsetta Smith, he would play in the NFL and
also earn his degree and it has been his mission to accomplish those goals.
“In the end, I didn’t get my degree yet,” said Smith, who is scheduled to complete his bachelor’s degree in sport management this May. “It is just one of the things she emphasized while growing up. I have to get an education. It is something nobody can ever take away from me. That is something that has always stuck with me. It is one of my goals in life – to get an education, get my degree and play in the NFL.”
Smith’s father, Henry, his older sister, Ashley, and other relatives and friends were also in attendance at the press conference that also featured statements from Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt and Tennessee Athletics head physician Dr. Chris Klenck, who gave an update on Smith’s health.
is a guy that is a really
good student of the game,” Pruitt said. “He is going to continue to grow
and develop. We are excited that he is coming back. He is a huge piece
of our football team. He is a great leader and a great player. Once he
decided to do this, you heard him, there is no looking back. He is ready
to get started and we are too.”
Smith has etched out one of the more memorable careers in recent Tennessee football history for his impact both on and off the field.
The Jackson, Tenn., native started 11 games at left guard in 2019 en route to All-SEC First Team honors from the coaches and media. He was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week twice this fall. After missing the final five games of the 2018 season and a comeback to football questionable, Smith returned to his dominant ways and spearheaded Tennessee’s six-game win streak to end the season. SEC Network analyst and offensive line expert Cole Cubelic named Smith to his All-America First Team.
building something special here at Tennessee,” Smith said. “I believe in
this coaching staff. I believe in the players we have coming. We’re
building something special. We have unfinished business this next
Smith is one of three finalists for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award given to the nation’s top all-around student-athlete, which will be awarded to the winner on Feb. 18. Smith is an active speaker to youth groups, elementary schools and organizations across the state and led coat drives for Knoxville Area Rescue Ministry (KARM) during the 2018 and 2019 seasons where over 1,000 coats were donated each year because of his efforts.
Smith came to his home-state school in 2017 as the nation’s No. 1 recruit according to ESPN and quickly lived up to the hype, becoming the first Vol true freshman to start at left tackle in over 30 years en route to consensus Freshman All-America honors and All-SEC Second Team accolades.
Smith was diagnosed with blood clots in February of 2018, but returned to play for the Vols in 2018. Another setback occurred in October of 2018 and Smith missed the final five games of the season. He again fought back to return to football. A plan was developed by the Tennessee medical staff, in collaboration with specialists, which minimizes Smith’s risk for recurrent blood clots, while allowing him to play football.
The plan was implemented for the 2019 season, allowing Smith to perform at an All-SEC level on the football field.
“We implemented that plan this past season and Trey did an outstanding job and was able to excel,” Dr. Klenck said. “Now that we have a season’s worth of experience, we plan to fine tune his treatment plan and continue it into the spring and 2020 season.”
Smith is now ready to get back to business for a Tennessee football team that will return several playmakers, and all of the offensive line starters, from a 7-5 squad that capped the season as one of the nation’s hottest teams, winning six consecutive games, including a tremendous 13-point comeback in the final five minutes of the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on Jan. 2.
“I wanted to come back here and be great,” Smith said. “I want to leave a legacy at Tennessee. I love this university and I love the people.”
Full Statement from Dr. Chris Klenck, Tennessee Head Team Physician:
“Trey was diagnosed with pulmonary emboli or blood clots in his lungs in February 2018. He was initiated on a course of anticoagulation and was cleared to return to full participation in football in August of 2018. In October of that year, Trey presented during practice with signs and symptoms worrisome for recurrent blood clots. Tests at the hospital that evening were also worrisome and Trey was immediately restarted on anticoagulants and removed from participation. Subsequently, we consulted with multiple specialists who reviewed Trey’s case and studies. Based on those consultations, we feel very confident that Trey’s studies from October were suboptimal and more consistent with lung changes from his prior blood clots and not a second episode of blood clots. In collaboration with our specialists, we developed a treatment plan that we felt would minimize Trey’s risk for recurrent blood clots but still allow him to play football. We implemented that plan this past season and Trey did an outstanding job and was able to excel. Now that we have a season’s worth of experience, we plan to fine tune his treatment plan and continue it into the spring and 2020 season.”
Tennessee Offensive Lineman Trey Smith Statement & Quotes
“First and foremost, I want to give all the honor, praise and glory to God for allowing me to be here in this situation. I want to thank you all for coming out today. I have a long list of thanks before I begin.
“I want to thank my family and friends for being by my side. I want to thank coach Mickey Marley, coach (Nick) Stamper, coach (Jim) Hardegree, coach (Bryce) King, the Bradley’s and Artis Hicks for helping me in high school and seeing potential in my abilities. I want to thank coach (Jeremy) Pruitt, coach (Phillip) Fulmer, coach (Will) Friend, coach (Craig) Fitzgerald, coach Mike Farrell, coach Cameron Clemmons and the entire coaching staff for their wisdom, guidance and support. I want to give a special thanks to Dr. (Chris) Klenck, Jeronimo Boche, Jason McVeigh and the entire medical staff at the University of Tennessee. I want to thank all of my teammates from past and present, who I’ve grinded with (and) struggled with while playing football. I want to thank all of Vol Nation for the continual love and support for not only myself but also my entire team throughout the years.
“My story begins in West Tennessee in a city named Jackson. Ever since I was a child, I’ve dreamt of playing SEC football. I used to pray and ask God he would make me 6-5 so I would be big enough to play the game I love. Fast forward my sophomore year in football, and now I was 6-5 and big enough to play the game that I love. Shortly after I began receiving offers to play division one football, I received numerous scholarships to major SEC universities. Life was great. Everything was great. However, the stark reality of life struck at an early age. My mother, Dorsetta Smith, fell sick and died soon after, which completely crushed my world. From that point since, I’ve been on a mission to fulfill my promise to her. I had to decide what institution was for me. Ultimately, I had to choose home. I fell in love with this university. From watching Jauan (Jennings) score the game winner at UGA, to breaking the streak in Neyland against Florida, when it was time to sign my papers and make a decision, I knew my home was in the state of Tennessee at the University of Tennessee. Tennessee is where I was raised, where I belong. I arrived on campus a wide-eyed freshman, nervous, anxious, about the task I faced. I played well my first year. However, adversity struck. I was diagnosed with blood clots in 2017 near the end of the season. I fought back again and had another setback in 2018. I persevered and came back this season and fought for everything I could. Now, as we sit here today, I’m faced with a life-changing decision. You see, when my mom was sick, I promised her I would receive my degree and diploma and I would play in the NFL one day. I want to be 100 percent sure of my decision. With that being said, I will honor my mother, Dorsetta Smith. I’ve made up my mind and don’t expect to ever look back. I’m going to stay at the University of Tennessee.”