‘He’s still my dad’
CHEYENNE – Trey Smith was only two years old when his father ripped the heart out of the Denver Broncos and their fans throughout the Rocky Mountain region.
"I actually just watched that a couple of times,” Smith said with a grin.
In all seriousness, Smith, a Louisville transfer and Wyoming’s
newest running back, likes to watch those old tapes to remind him of his father’s
glory days. They serve as a reminder of where he wants to be someday.
This play was arguably the pinnacle of his father’s career. Leading by three in the waning minutes of the 1996 divisional playoffs, Mark Brunell dropped back and delivered a 16-yard strike right into the awaiting arms of a diving Jimmy Smith.
Jacksonville, a 14-point underdog and just two years into the franchises existence, upset John Elway and the Broncos, 30-27, and punched its ticket to the AFC Championship game.
For his son, this play spells greatness.
For Denver fans, well, it’s best to just look away.
“Every time I go to Denver, I feel really good for some
reason,” Smith joked. “I know that one hurt.
“I’m actually becoming a bit of a Broncos fan.”
Smith came to Laramie to carve out his own path.
In four seasons at Louisville, Smith carried the ball just
82 times. He amassed 415 yards and scored four touchdowns.
He says he never really go the shot to be the feature back in the Cardinals’ offense. That, he said, is one of the many reasons he decided to spend his final collegiate season in Laramie.
“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “I definitely saw an opportunity here. We are thin at running back and that weighed heavily.”
What are his other reasons?
Smith, who grew up in Florida and Mississippi, wanted to see
the mountains, prairies and, yes, even snow.
He wanted to play for Craig Bohl. Smith said he respects what Wyoming’s coach has done throughout his career. “He gets guys into the league,” he said.
Smith said some may find his final reason funny. People
might think it’s a joke. Standing in the west end zone of the indoor practice
facility in Laramie last Friday, Smith gave a stern look and delivered this
message: “I tell myself every year that I want to go to the national
“When I say I’m in Laramie, people say, ‘what are you doing there?’ I am here to help elevate this place and make people respect it,” Smith said. “I just want to make this team better. My personal goals – those are personal – but I want to help get Wyoming on the big stage.”
Smith is the son of a former Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion. He is also the grandson of former NFL linebacker, Jimmy Smith Sr.
One might think that led to a life of leisure.
They would be wrong.
Yes, his father is all-time leading receiver in Jacksonville
Jaguars’ history. He was an All-Pro. He has the ninth most receptions ever in
He’s also a recovering drug addict.
Jimmy Smith suffered a very public fall from grace,
beginning in 2001 when he was pulled over for suspected drunk driving and
cocaine was found in his system. Two years later, Smith was suspended by the
league for a substance abuse violation.
He abruptly retired before the 2009 season. Some thought it
was to avoid the humiliation of another failed test. Smith said he was simply
tired of playing.
Everything came to a head for the Jaguars star in 2009 when he was arrested for multiple drug charges, including marijuana and crack cocaine. Four years later, he was sentenced to six years in a Mississippi State Penitentiary after being arrested once again for possession and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
His son was 14 at the time, just finding his own stride on
the football field.
“It wasn’t easy waking up for school and seeing your dad on
the local news,” Trey Smith said. “Pretty much everyone makes mistakes and goes
through struggles. What are you going to do, cry about it? You have to go do
“At the end of the day, I know my dad made some bad
mistakes, but he’s still my dad. We’ve had many conversations about it. He’s
the only dad I’ve got, and I still love him.”
Jimmy Smith is still in recovery. It’s an on-going thing,
his son said. It probably always will be. Though his father has been clean for
many years now, the lesson learned is not one Trey Smith takes lightly.
“I’ve learned from his mistakes,” he said. “You learn from that,
so you don’t go down that path. My focus is elevating this team and myself and
getting in the best position to get myself in the league.”
Another thing that’s great about having a pair of former NFL
players in the family, he said, is they understand what it takes.
“They are a big influence,” Smith said. “As a little kid, I
only thought about football. That’s all I watched on television and listened to
on the radio. Everything centered around football. It’s great having support
from people who understand.”
Friday morning, Smith took his first snaps as a Wyoming Cowboy. He said he is used to the altitude now, but this was his first time lined up next to his new teammates. Nerves, yep, they were there on Day 1. So were the miscues. He says his first two runs were little to be desired, but he made up for it.
Bohl said at Mountain West Media Days in Las Vegas that he
likes Smith’s burst, blocking ability and pass-catching out of the backfield.
He went to Louisville as a wide receiver. And, his dad is Jimmy Smith after
Sophomore running back Xazavian Valladay was named the starter heading into fall camp. Smith said he has no issues with that. He knows he needs to earn it. He plans to let his play do the speaking for him.
“Me and ‘X’ had the conversation that, at the end of the day,
we are brothers,” Smith said. “There’s going to be competition. We have to
work, but we can still hang out. I hope we can both elevate each other’s game.”
Last Thursday night, Smith got introduced to Wyoming’s all-time leading rusher. He watched Brian Hill truck a Denver defender on television. Smith was impressed, but he eluded to the fact that he is upset that more people don’t know about Hill and his exploits in Laramie.
He wants Wyoming to become a household name. He only has one season to accomplish that, but he’s confident that this team could be just the beginning of something special inside War Memorial Stadium for years to come.
“Guys like that need to have more spotlight,” he said of Hill, who rushed for 4,287 yards in just three seasons at UW. “We have some benchmarks to reach here.
“Thank goodness football is back.”