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Tennessee’s Torchbearer: VFL Trey Smith Given Highest Student Honor

Former Vols offensive lineman Trey Smith has been named a Torchbearer, the highest student honor conferred by the University of Tennessee.

Trey Smith will be remembered as one of the most prolific Tennessee players to ever lace up their cleats, and his long list of awards and accomplishments only proves that point further.

The Jackson, TN native has made a considerable impact on both the Tennessee football team and the city of Knoxville, spanning from shoving 300-pound men to reading books to elementary classes.

And on Saturday, Chancellor Donde Plowman revealed that the University of Tennessee had one more trick up their sleeve to show their gratitude.

According to a video released by the Tennessee Football Twitter account, Chancellor Plowman and the University have named Trey Smith a “Torchbearer”, the highest award given to a member of the student body.

“I’m really, really, really, super excited to tell you that today, I get to tell you, that you are a Torchbearer,” Plowman said to Smith, on a zoom call featuring a number of Tennessee staff members. “You have been selected to be a Torchbearer. We’re all so proud of you.”

A round of applause immediately burst out among the zoom call, which featured 20 different people tied to Smith’s journey.

A Must-See Event

Some of the names included on the call were head coach Josh Heupel, athletic director Danny White, assistant athletics director Ashley Smith, Dr. Joe Scogin, Rachel Pfister, Tyvi Small, and many more.

“You’re held on a high pedestal,” coach Heupel said to Smith. “And those footsteps are going to be marched through by a lot of our young players as they come into our program. I appreciate everything you poured into this program. You’ve represented your family, your football program, the University of Tennessee, and really the state of Tennessee, in such a positive way. I’m proud to have you as a Vol for Life.”

The University of Tennessee website provides a more detailed look into the qualifications of a Torchbearer.

The Torchbearer is the highest student honor conferred by the University of Tennessee. Torchbearers are seniors who have served their alma mater with overall excellence. The Torchbearer is awarded for academic achievement and outstanding commitment to others as demonstrated by the student’s various activities and significant contributions to the university and the community.”

Smith certainly has proven what it means to not only be a true leader on the football field, but also the community. And why both are so connected to each other.

“I’m so blessed and fortunate that I came to the University of Tennessee,” Smith said after receiving the honor. “I thank God for it every day and the position I’m in, in life, because of him. At the end of the day, if there is anything I can do to help other people, I’ll never hesitate to do it.”

And The Award Goes To…

With the Torchbearer honor, Smith has now collected 21 different accolades and honors during his Tennessee career from 2017-2021.

For his work on the field, Smith was recognized as Freshman All-SEC and All-American in 2017, AP All-SEC First Team in 2019 and 2020, and was second-team All-American in 2020. Smith also won the Fritz Pollard trophy in 2020 and was invited to the 2021 NFL combine and 2021 Senior Bowl.

But equally as important, his work in the community was recognized as well. Smith was listed on the SEC Community Service team in 2018 and 2020, was the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year winner in 2019, and won the Pat Summitt Ignite Greatness Award in 2020. 

Smith made his first career start in his first-ever Tennessee football game as a freshman in 2017. The Vols would win over Georgia State in the game, but the real victory was that Trey Smith had officially burst onto the scene for Tennessee.

His sophomore campaign, however, almost spelled out tragedy. In February of 2018, Smith was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs, shutting his season down after just seven games. But the concern wasn’t about his season, it was about his career.

Through hard work and determination, Smith fought for his path to get back on the field and exploded onto the scene nationally during his junior season.

In fact, it was so great, many knew that Smith had genuine NFL potential, but not without some question marks around his health.

But nevertheless, in a move that brought many Tennessee fans back to the glory days, Smith held a press conference at Tennessee to announce his return for his senior season.

Smith’s Torchbearer Legacy

On his way to becoming a Torchbearer, Trey Smith has left a legacy that only a few others have in the last decade or so at Tennessee. When thinking of guys that are on his level, Josh Dobbs and Grant Williams are two names that come to mind.

As Smith mentioned in the video, he is currently working out at Michael Johnson Performance in McKinney, TX, as he prepares for the upcoming NFL draft.

Wherever he goes, one thing is for sure. It won’t just be the team that is getting better. It will be the city, and the community, as well.

“I just want to say thank you guys,” Smith said on the call. “For taking time out of your busy schedules. Just to speak to me and be apart of this.”

“When I woke up this morning, this is not what I expected at all!” 

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