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Tennessee football: Cooper Mays talks about former teammate Trey Smith playing in the Super Bowl

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There were doubts that Trey Smith would ever play football again. Now, the former Tennessee football standout is playing in the Super Bowl. That’s quite the turnaround.

Smith’s career was just beginning to flourish in 2018 when blood clots were discovered in his lungs. Just a sophomore, Smith was pulled from the Vols’ lineup after starting seven games that season. It was at least the second time that doctors had discovered the health issue. Smith’s future was incredibly uncertain, to say the least.

“Definitely really scary,” Tennessee center Cooper Mays said when asked about Smith’s past. “It’s not like turning your ankle or anything. You can’t put some ice on it and feel better. So any time something like that comes into question, it’s never good…I’m sure it was a really scary thing, but especially for people like us (athletes) that make your living off of being healthy.” 

Mays knows Smith better than most. The two developed a close relationship during Mays’ recruitment. Smith was one of the first to reach out to Mays after he was offered a scholarship by the Vols. Then, Smith offered guidance for Mays when he showed up on campus in 2020.

“I’ve been friends with him for for a lot of years now, and he’s just a great guy,” Mays said.

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While there were questions about Smith’s health, there were never any questions about his talent, even as he slid to the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Had it not been for the blood clot concerns, Smith would have assuredly been drafted much higher.

“There’s not a lot of people that God put breath into (that are) that big and still move the way he does,” Mays said. “He’s a brute. He’s a guy that can uproot some big men on the defensive line…Barring injury, I don’t see Trey going anywhere any time soon and I think he’s going to get paid really nicely and and have a great career.”

Smith’s career has had plenty of twists and turns. The Jackson, Tenn., native surprised some by returning to Tennessee in 2020 instead of entering that year’s NFL Draft. The next notable event may be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy as an NFL champion.

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