When the Kansas City Chiefs selected former Tennessee offensive lineman Trey Smith in the sixth-round, the pick was immediately labeled one of the biggest steals of the draft — and rightfully so. The 2020 second-team All-American offensive guard did not possess the talent of a typical late-round pick; he was projected to be selected as early as Round 2.
Chiefs fans were and are still excited about getting a great college player at such a low-cost, but there’s two sides to that coin: Smith was not as excited to wait that long for a team’s phone call.
“Those three days were pretty grueling to be honest,” Smith admitted in his Saturday zoom press conference. “I have a certain standard of expectations for myself in my life, so not meeting that was disappointing. Ultimately, God has the ultimate plan for me and my life, so right now I think I’m at the best place I can be at. I’m super excited to be here, super excited to work with coach Heck every day.”
The fall in the draft was out of Smith’s control. Most believe it was due to his sophomore season, when he missed most of it while dealing with blood clots. Smith has dominated in the SEC for the two years since then — earning first-team All-conference honors both seasons.
As discouraging as it likely was on draft weekend, Smith appreciates the chance it gave him to play for this particular franchise.
“There are plenty of reasons [why this is the best place for me to be],” Smith began to explain. “One, this is a winning organization that has a rich history. On top of that, I’m getting to play under a great offensive line coach in Andy Heck and coach (Corey) Matthaei assisting in that. At the end of the day, it’s a veteran room; somewhere I know technique and being a better overall football player is where I need to grow. It’s a great setting, a perfect opportunity for me to grow in this program. The medical staff here is amazing, the media is amazing. There’s really no complaints in this area; my dad’s company is based out of Kansas City. At the end of the day, it’s a great opportunity for me, and a great future home for me as well.”
You see a lot of athletes use the disappointment from being a late-round selection to motivate them and fuel them throughout their career — even after they’ve clearly outperformed their draft slot.
It’s human nature to have that chip on your shoulder, but Smith believes he’d be equally motivated if picked any earlier.
“At the end of the day, when I come into work every day if I was a first-round pick, the number one overall pick or anything like that, I’d be coming with the same motivation, the same work mentality that I’m bringing everyday,” Smith assured. “I just needed an opportunity, and the Chiefs gave me one, so I’m super thankful for it and it’s up to me to make the most out of it.”
A lot of the excitement for Smith also stemmed from how much the Chiefs had already invested in the offensive line. They made multiple signings, they traded for Orlando Brown Jr., drafted Creed Humphrey, and then added Smith.
The rookie has the self-awareness to know that he stands to benefit a lot from joining such an experienced, loaded unit.
“The talent in that room is unreal,” Smith marveled. “Looking at guys I used to watch when I was younger like Kyle Long, I’m just so excited to be around that caliber of player, so I can soak up all the information they give me like a sponge. Most of that is on the field techniques and different things I can do to better my game, but also what it looks like to be a pro off the field.”
As Smith develops into a professional player, he’ll be going against another first-year defender with the same goal; a player he has familiarity with. Second-round pick Nick Bolton was a key member of the Missouri Tigers defense for the last three years — and matched up with Smith and the Tennessee offense a few times in SEC play.
“When [Bolton] got drafted and I know I was coming here, I was like, ‘Dude, he’s going to be so annoying to chase down on the field,’” Smith recalled. “Playing him so many years, he’s a baller. Can’t wait to get a little bit of action against him again.”
Smith came off as a player that cares about football and cares about living up to the high expectations he has set for himself. He also knows the Chiefs can help him meet those aspirations as much or more than any other NFL team he could have joined.
It’s something that any rookie is likely to say about their new team — but in Smith’s case, he’s right.