Thirty-two NFL teams passed on Tennessee Volunteers offensive lineman Trey Smith multiple times in the 2021 NFL Draft, including the Kansas City Chiefs.
But in the sixth round, the Chiefs decided enough was enough, snatching up the 6-foot-6, 330-pound guard with the 226th pick overall and ending a draft skid that probably should have never happened.
“It's a roller coaster,” Smith told reporters after being selected. “The first two nights, you know, watching a little bit, having family over, and you don't get selected is tough. But you know, ultimately being selected, it's such a great feeling, such a feeling of release when you work for your entire life. It was definitely overwhelming at a lot of points, but God has a plan and here I am.”
Following the 2017 season, doctors found blood clots in Smith’s lungs that nearly derailed his playing career. Although he followed a doctor-prescribed playing regimen and was cleared to play, he was forced to end his 2018 season prematurely due to the issue. Smith returned for the 2019 season and spurned the draft to play out his senior season.
The once-No. 1 overall prospect in college football was projected to be a mid-round selection. But instead he was forced to be patient as he slid down the draft board, hoping a team would overlook his medical history and take a chance on a first-round talent.
“Obviously, a very good football player,” Chiefs GM Mike Borgonzi said. “He's (been) one of the top guards in the country for the last couple years. (Our) medical staff with Rick Burkholder and our doctors fully vetted the situation, so we feel completely comfortable where he's at medically to play for us and we’re just really excited to add him to the roster here.”
Added Smith: “I've been in absolute perfect health…no issues recently at all. Obviously, things are uncontrollable, but once again, thank you to the Hunt family and the Chiefs organization for believing in me. I'm completely healthy, I'm ready to roll.”
A 2020 All-American, 2017 Freshman All-American and two-time All-SEC selection, Smith started 41 games during his UT career after being a standout player at University School of Jackson (Tennessee). He made the switch from tackle to guard after his freshman season and was consistently the Vols’ top offensive lineman.
The 21-year-old Smith allowed just one sack, four quarterback hits and 12 QB hurries on 754 pass-blocking snaps over his last two seasons.
Playing 560 snaps at left tackle during his freshman and sophomore years, then 507 snaps at right guard, Smith’s versatility could prove invaluable to the Chiefs, who revamped their offensive line during the offseason and traded their first-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens for left tackle Orlando Brown.
“I'm not saying I'm going to start necessarily, but I’m going to do my role on the team, whatever I have to do to make the Chiefs’ organization successful,” Smith said.
“…I'm definitely motivated. I'm forever thankful for the Hunt family. Thank you to everyone that’s in the organization for believing in me and taking a chance on me.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_