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Rocky’s World: the history of Trey Smith — the toughest guy in the room

Once you know the road he’s taken to get here, everything about him makes sense

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Kansas City Chiefs v Washington Football Team Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs starting right guard, Henry "Trey" Smith III, is a bully on the football field. He's not just good; He's mean.

He will break your spirit and your body. If you are out of position, he will pancake you into oblivion and ruin your day like he's Hans Gruber rolling into Nakatomi Tower.

You are not stronger than him. You're not more athletic. You may think you are. But you're mistaken. He is bigger than you, stronger.

He is a cheat code.

He is also a big Quentin Tarantino fan and loves the Japanese anime series Naruto.

He doesn't like trick or treating because he hates candy. He didn't learn how to ride a bike until college. He has a deep respect for football traditions and is an avid student of the game.

But to understand who somebody is, you have to know where they come from. For Trey Smith, his family is the source of his superpowers.


Getting to know the Smiths

Trey's grandfather, Reverend Henry Sanders, was a minister and a Korean War vet. After fighting for his country, Sanders returned to Tennessee and married his sweetheart, Lizzie Jo Batts. When the newlyweds attempted to purchase a plot of land to farm, they were told that black people were meant to work on farms — not own them.

Trey's grandfather is part of why he began speaking out on the subject of inequality and racism last year following the death of George Floyd.

“It’s a little bit hard for me to understand why people refuse to acknowledge those types of facts. It’s something that happened. You can’t deny it happened. It angers me, yet we have to just use love. That’s what my grandfather told me. Just use love. Fighting, arguing, war, they aren’t going to accomplish anything. If I can teach you and inform you why it’s wrong, how it needs to change, then we can make some progress. I think the first step is acknowledging that these things are happening.”

If you ask Trey about his father, Henry, he'll tell you that his father is the wisest person he knows. Henry is a no-nonsense person who taught Trey to refrain from jumping to conclusions based on first impressions and to let things unfold before you make a hasty decision.

His dad grew up about an hour outside of Memphis in Haywood County, the home of the famous United States v. Haywood County Board of Education case, where the United States Government brought action against the Haywood County Board of Education in 1967 for their failure to integrate schools.

After the Brown v. Board of Education ruling came down, the Haywood County Board of Education attempted to circumvent the new law by electing the "for the choice" method. Students and their families were allowed to choose the school they wanted their child to attend. But Brown v. Board of Education ordered all schools to be integrated — the abolishment of state-imposed segregation did not meet that threshold.

“Based on evidence of inadequate buildings and facilities, improper personal notices with respect to the freedom to choose schools, and intimidation of Negro pupils and their parents, the Attorney General has asked for a large measure of relief...

These we the school hallways Trey's father, Henry, grew up in, where he endured racial slurs from his classmates on a regular basis.

“Racism was just the norm... what it did for me was motivated me to work harder, to make sure I was doing more than other kids, to make sure when I went for jobs, I was more qualified than the other applicants.”

After high school, Henry attended the University of Tennessee–Martin, where he met Trey's Mom, Dorsetta. Trey describes his mother as kind and loving. If he gets his wisdom from his father, then he gets his kindness and desire to help out those less fortunate from Dorsetta.

“From a kindness standpoint, I think a lot of that comes from my mom, I don’t like seeing people struggle, so if I can help you and bring you up, that’s what I’m going to do...

“I don’t want to see people struggle. I don’t want to see people suffer on earth.”

On New Year's Eve in 2014, Dorsetta fell ill and was taken to the hospital. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. After being in the hospital for a few weeks, she was transferred to Vanderbilt Medical Center. Trey and the rest of his family stayed by her side. Trey promised his mother that he would get his degree and play in the NFL.

On February 10, 2015, she passed away. Her funeral took place on Valentine's Day. She was 51 years old.

“When you think about it in the grand scheme of human life, we’re so small,” Trey said. “I almost felt like life should have stopped when my mom died. It was a harsh reality that the world keeps moving, if that makes sense. It’s hard to explain without sounding cold, but it’s one of those things where I could have either sulked about it and stayed depressed, have a ‘woe is me’ attitude, or I could get up every day, go to work, achieve my goals and be the person my mom wanted me to be. Maybe a day or two after she passed, I was in the gym”

He was determined to fulfill his promise to her — but that doesn't mean it was easy.

“You’re not gonna have a good day after your mom dies. You won’t have good days. There won’t be another day in my life that I don’t think about her. I think about my mom every time I wake up, and she’s what I think about when I go to sleep. It’s still not the same and it’ll never be the same.”


The fall

In 2018, Trey was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs. To this day, the doctors don't know what caused them. As Chiefs fans likely know, blood clots are a serious medical condition. In February of 2000, Chiefs great Derrick Thomas died of a blood clot that traveled from his legs to his lungs.

Smith was prepared to walk away from football, but he didn't want to. He wanted to play. He wanted to hit someone. If he could do it safely, he was determined to return to the football field.

“I know it looked bleak to a lot of people, and I know everyone kept saying I wouldn’t play again,” Smith told ESPN. “But, in my mind, I was going to play again. Some were [concerned] about me playing again, and some doubted me. I’m cool with that. I was going to prove them wrong and am going to keep proving them wrong.

You know how this story ends if you're a diehard Chiefs fan.

After a series of tests, Trey's doctors prescribed him a six-month course of anticoagulants followed up by baby aspirin. Over time, the blood clots went away. But there is no guarantee they will not return.

Powered by the support of his family, Trey battled his way back onto the field and is considered one of the best rookie offensive linemen in the league.

This is just a glimpse into the experiences that have made Trey Smith who he is today. So the next time you see him do something like this to Maxx Crosby, remember it all.

Many folks have had a hand in making the Chiefs' starting right guard who he is today.

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