KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – When Cade Mays announced he was returning to Knoxville to play for his hometown team in early January, it fulfilled the longtime manifestation of fellow offensive lineman Trey Smith. But with the NCAA yet to grant Mays immediate eligibility, Smith may still not get that chance.
“The people that are making these decisions are just sitting in the meeting room, just drinking coffee and looking at the paper,” Smith said Tuesday regarding the NCAA’s decision. “It’s really asinine, to say the least, man.”
Smith admitted that he’s wanted to play alongside Mays since high school where the former five-star prospects often found themselves in similar circles, crossing paths at events like the Tennessee Titans annual Mr. Football awards banquet, and have kept in touch ever since.
“Finally, we get to the point where he came back home, he’s at Tennessee, we’re going to play with each other. To see a decision that’s basically trying to shoot down the hard work and discredit this kid who, at the end of the day, he’s coming to work every day, he’s busting his butt he’s coming to practice.”
“If the people eating in meeting rooms and wearing suits and walking around all day don’t want to clear this kid who’s busting his butt, bleeding, sweating, getting hit on the field consistently, then that’s their choice and that’s their option,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, do right by a kid who’s working hard and working his butt of and trying to be great. That’s how I look at it.”
Mays would undoubtedly be a starter for Tennessee’s offensive line if granted eligibility, and with the line in flux this preseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact, Mays not only brings physicality but experience and mental toughness to a group that’s lacked consistency in the preseason.
Despite the lack of certainty regarding his playing eligibility status with less than two weeks until kickoff, Smith said Mays’ preparation for the season hasn’t been impacted.
“Cade is a tough dude,” Smith said. “Our mentality, man, why let that affect how he comes every day, how he works. Regardless of what they decide this man is coming to work every day, grinding every day, sweating everyday, bleeding every day, hitting every day regardless of what they decide. In those terms, like I said, for people just sitting up making decisions in an air-conditioned room and suits, you make that decision. He’s coming to work every day regardless.”
The Vols start their season on the road at South Carolina on Saturday, September 26th.
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