On Tuesday evening, Tennessee offensive lineman Trey Smith was awarded with the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award. The award is given annually to a Division I college football player who “has demonstrated a record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity and sportsmanship both on and off the field.”
Vol fans know that Trey Smith fits that description perfectly, and that was exemplified in his acceptance speech when he was given the award.
Smith took the stage in Frisco, Texas to accept the award, and he gave a brief speech after doing so, detailing his journey through his medical hardships to finally getting back on the field.
The former five-star offensive lineman was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs after his Freshman All-American season at Tennessee in 2017. Smith sat out all of spring practices in 2018 and was only cleared to play for the season late in fall camp in August. After starting the first seven games of the season, Smith was sidelined for the rest of the year after his blood clots reappeared.
At that point, Smith’s playing career seemed very much in doubt. He, again, missed all of spring practices as his condition was treated.
Smith detailed a pivotal night for him during the process, one where the reality of never playing football again really began to sink in.
“I was with my family, and I had just visited doctors, and they were like, ‘Hang it up, man. You’re done playing football. This is it,'” Smith said in his acceptance speech. “Something you dreamed about as a kid? Something you made a promise about to your mom on her death bed? Hearing that it’s done? It’s devastating.”
The Jackson, Tennessee native said after an awards banquet at UT, he and his father met with head coach Jeremy Pruitt, and Smith began crying on the couch.
But despite what doctors had told him, despite all the adversity, Smith felt that his time on the field wasn’t done.
“It’s not over yet,” Smith said he told Pruitt. “God put a vision inside of me that night and that whole week, saying, ‘I don’t care what that says, I have more glory, more honor for you.’
“You see, God had a bigger purpose for me. I told Coach Pruitt, I looked in his eye, and I go, ‘I don’t know why, but I feel this way. I don’t know what’s telling me to do this, but I’m gonna play next year. I know I’m gonna play well. I know it’s gonna happen.'”
Smith did play for Tennessee in 2019, and he excelled. He was named a First Team All-SEC offensive lineman by both the AP and Coaches selections, and he started all but one game for the Vols, appearing in all 13 contests.
But Smith wasn’t just given the Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award because of his battle with his medical condition; Smith has also given back in a big way to the Knoxville community.
Since coming to Tennessee, Smith has spearheaded a coat drive for Knox Area Rescue Ministries that started in 2018 and continued into 2019. He was named part of the 2018 SEC Community Service Team as well. Smith was also awarded the inaugural Fritz Pollard Trophy back in January, an award given to a collegiate player who has exemplified extraordinary courage, community values, and exceptional performance on the field.
You can hear Smith’s full speech below:
“𝙄 𝙠𝙣𝙤𝙬 𝙞𝙩’𝙨 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙤𝙫𝙚𝙧, 𝙮𝙚𝙩.”
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) February 19, 2020