HomeOpinionUp next in Trey Smith’s football journey: Super Bowl LVII

Up next in Trey Smith’s football journey: Super Bowl LVII

People who watched youth football in Jackson 10 or 15 years ago knew about Trey Smith.

His name began to spread in the summer of 2014 when he received a pair of football scholarship offers from schools in the Southeastern Conference – Ole Miss and Tennessee. Those offers came before his sophomore season at University School of Jackson and before he ever played a meaningful down of high school football.

But he quickly became a household name in rural West Tennessee and across the state as the big lineman coming out of Jackson that had great feet, a great work ethic and was good enough for then-Tennessee head coach Butch Jones to bring a lineman camp to Kirkland Field and Carlock Stadium during the brief time coaches could do that.

In April of 2016, the name of Trey Smith got even more notoriety when ESPN named him as the top prospect in the country in his sport.

And he never did anything off the field to garner that notoriety.

There were never any tweets to hype himself. No sending of his game or camp film out to Twitter to get himself noticed by fans across the country.

He didn’t need that. Coaches knew him. More importantly, coaches wanted him.

Trey had scholarship offers from nearly every Power 5 conference team in the country.

And after he finally did narrow his top five choices to Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Ole Miss and Tennessee, the route from McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport to USJ’s campus on McClellan Road became a well-worn path among the likes of Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, Brian Kelly (then at Notre Dame), Urban Meyer (then at Ohio State), Hugh Freeze (then at Ole Miss) and Jones.

He did a great job balancing the national acclaim with being a high school student-athlete.

He did interviews, but he never touted himself the way a lot of athletes do.

And that was for two reasons – that wasn’t how he was raised, and he didn’t need to.

When Saban, Swinney and Meyer – the three most successful coaches in the last 20 years in college football before Georgia took over the last two years – are coming to your town wanting you to come to theirs, there’s absolutely no reason for you to hype yourself up.

ESPN’s cameras peaked into USJ’s theater for a few minutes one afternoon in December of 2016. His high school career was over. He was about to announce his commitment and he’d leave high school to enroll early at his school of choice in January.

After an interview and the typical session of him, his father Henry and sister Ashley sitting at a table with all the appropriate hats sitting on it, he made his announcement of Tennessee. The theater – which was packed at least close to if not past the fire marshal’s capacity limits – went loud as orange balloons came down from above the stage and “Rocky Top” played over the speakers.

(Side note: One of his friends showed up at the signing wearing an Alabama shirt. When he got a hug from his friend, Smith said, “What are you wearing?!?” His friend said, “I thought for sure you were picking Bama! My bad!”)

Then came his time at Tennessee from 2017 until his final season in 2020.

The young man for whom football seemed to come so easy quickly became a driving force for the Vols, earning All-SEC honors as a freshman and becoming a guy up front opposing defenses had to plan around.

He became a fan favorite too. Photos of him celebrating big wins with fans in the stands while he wore a cowboy hat have become a normal image for people to bring to mind when they think of Smith’s time in Knoxville.

But he had his battles too. His family lost his mother when she passed away during his junior year of high school. Then he missed significant time on the practice and game field when he was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs. He was told at one point his days playing football were probably over.

He dealt with a coaching change from Jones to Jeremy Pruitt. His final days as part of the football program saw Pruitt get fired to make way for current coach Josh Heupel.

As he prepared for the 2021 NFL Draft, there were concerns that his draft stock would be diminished because of the blood clot issue, and that possibly was the case as he was picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs in the sixth round.

But he’s been a starter both years as a pro in Kansas City, blocking for one of the best quarterbacks in the sport in Patrick Mahomes.

And since the Chiefs beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship this past Sunday, a large chunk of the television-watching world will get a chance to hear about Smith this week in one of the biggest nights of the year for American sports when the Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles meet in the Super Bowl.

It’s been fun to watch Trey grow from a big kid with a ton of potential into a key player for one of the best franchises in the NFL.

I’m sure most of Jackson and Madison County – and a large portion of the Vol Nation – will be pulling for Trey to become a Super Bowl champion next week.

Brandon Shields is the managing editor of The Jackson Post. Contact him at brandon@jacksonpost.news. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or Instagram @Editorbrandon.

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