Tennessee senior left guard Trey Smith told ESPN’s Chris Low on Monday that he wants to play in the 2020 college football season.
“I want to play,” Smith told Low in an ESPN article. “I want to play safely, and that’s the consensus across the sport and all the guys I talk to.
“We all want to play the game of football that we love. We’re all out here working our butts off in this hot sun and trying to get better at our craft and perfect our craft.”
Smith decided to return for his senior season instead of entering the 2020 NFL Draft following a great junior season. The Jackson, Tennessee native is viewed by many to be one of the best offensive lineman in all of college football, and is viewed to have a strong chance of being a first round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
“It would tick me off to my core if we’re snubbed and that opportunity gets taken away from me to go out there and prove myself,” Smith told ESPN. “I’m not knocking any president or chancellor, who absolutely do fabulous jobs, but it would be awesome as players if we could be informed and heard from and quit finding out things about the season possibly being canceled on Twitter and in the media.”
Smith returned last season from a medical issue involving blood clots that cost him the second half of his sophomore season. Returning to play his junior season, he played in all 13 of Tennessee’s games and started in 12 of them. Smith expressed to ESPN that he understands the risks involved with the coronavirus pandemic and is well aware that his risk factor is elevated because of his medical history.
“It would be borderline ignorant to say that it’s not concerning,” Smith said. “We’ve definitely talked about it as a family, prayed about it and asked God to protect me. The doctors at Tennessee and Coach [Jeremy] Pruitt have been great at keeping us informed on everything. But at the end of the day, we as players have to take the proper precautions. So, yes, it’s something you weigh: Is it worth it? Is it not worth it? Ultimately, to get to my dream goals and aspirations, it’s worth the risk for me.
“I’ve set a group of goals I want to accomplish in life, and not having the chance to play this season would be hard to grasp after everything I’ve overcome… I want to go out there and prove myself. I have a lot of doubters out there, and it really ticks me off even thinking about it. I really wanted to reintroduce myself again this season as a dominant force.”
Smith has been named to the Outland Trophy Preseason Watch List and the Wuerffel Trophy Preseason Watch List entering the 2020 season. He has also been named a Preseason First-Team All-American (Athlon, Sporting News, Phil Steele), a Preseason Second-Team All-American (Walter Camp) and named to the Preseason All-SEC First Team (Athlon, College Football News, Phil Steele) leading into the season.
The 6-foot-6, 335-pound offensive linemen was named a finalist for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award following the season and was the winner of the inaugural Fritz Pollard Trophy, given to the collegiate player who has “exemplified extraordinary courage, community values, and exceptional performance on the field.”
Smith signed with Tennessee as the No. 1 overall player in the country according to ESPN’s recruiting rankings in the 2017 class. Smith earned All-State honors from 2015-17 as a five-star at the University School in Jackson. He was also a two-time Tennessee Mr. Football winner.
As a true freshman, Smith started all 12 games for the Vols. He went on to earn All-SEC Second Team and SEC All-Freshman Team honors, in addition to Freshman All-American honors from several organizations. Smith became the first Vol true freshman to start at left tackle in over 30 years when did so against Southern Miss. He led the Vols with 55 knockdowns and finished as the SEC’s top-rated freshman offensive player (80.6) according to PFF College.