Tennessee offensive lineman Trey Smith, who missed the second half of last season after the recurrence of blood clots in his lungs, has been cleared by doctors to play Saturday in the Vols' season opener against Georgia State.
"My family and I consulted with several of the best doctors in the country, and a plan has been developed that allows me to compete with my teammates on game day," Smith said. "My family and I are confident in that plan. The coaches and staff here at Tennessee have always had my best interests at heart, and I can't thank them enough. Thanks to all of the fans and my teammates for all of their support."
Smith played in the first seven games a year ago at left tackle but was unable to finish the season after doctors discovered the recurrence of blood clots. Smith, ESPN's No. 1 overall prospect in the 2017 signing class, was initially diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs in February of 2018. He has been working at guard this preseason, although he has been limited and closely monitored, but figures prominently in Tennessee's starting rotation as long as he stays healthy and the clots don't return.
Smith and his family spent several months during the 2018 offseason consulting with a team of specialists and doctors, who reached a consensus that the best way to treat his condition was with a six-month course of anticoagulants (blood-thinning medication) followed by baby aspirin. He missed spring practice last year and wasn't cleared for contact until August a year ago.
Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt has said repeatedly that Smith's return would be strictly a medical decision and that his chief concern was Smith's overall health and that football was secondary.
"This is Trey's decision, and our medical staff has done a great job throughout this entire process," Pruitt said. "The main priority has been and always will be Trey's health. Our doctors have implemented a plan that will allow Trey to play, and we are excited for him."
Dr. Chris Klenck, Tennessee's team physician, told ESPN last August that a series of meetings and conversations with Smith and his family took place during the course of his treatment. There was a final meeting before returning to practice that included Smith, his father, Henry, Klenck, football trainer Jeronimo Boche and Pruitt.
"We sat down with Trey and his dad and said, 'Here's where you are, and here are your risks of recurrent blood clots,'" Klenck told ESPN last year. "After that long discussion with everybody involved, they felt good about where we are. He's doing great, and while they acknowledged there is a risk moving forward, Trey has a good grasp of everything and feels comfortable."