By Thomas Sellers Jr.
No matter what events coaches James Edwards, Dennis Alexander, Darren Garcia and others threw at Corey Smith, he was up to the challenge.
From his days as a SYS Trojan to the conclusion of his prep career for the Millington Trojans, Smith shined in various events. His accomplishments and awards lead to college interest from across the Volunteer State.
The recent Millington Central High School graduate now faced a decision involving distance. Should he pursue his football future at UT-Chattanooga or seize a chance to continue his track career up the road at UT-Martin.
In the MCHS Library on June 3, Smith made his choice of UT-Martin Track official right beside his parents Mia and Barry.
“As much as I loved Chattanooga, I am thrilled he’s only two hours up the road,” Mia declared. “I am not thrilled that I have to continue to do the laundry but I am happy he’s close.”
MCHS administrators and Smith’s coaches were also present for the signing of his national letter of intent. Edwards also presented Smith with an award recognizing him for qualifying for State in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
“He’s special,” Edward said. “He’s the only three-time State qualifier I’ve had here at Millington in my career.”
Edward’s time at Millington goes back several years with past State qualifiers like George Odum, Eric Knowlton, Mario Justice and many more. Smith stands alone as a regular visitor to Murfreesboro. To complete his senior campaign, Smith qualified for State in the High Jump and 4x200m relay.
“It all starts with him,” Barry said. “On the rainy days, he still goes out there and does the work. He’s on the track and he still runs. If it’s cold outside, he still gets out there and does the work. So he has earned this.
“Nothing was given, so it is great all those coaches saw it,” he added. “One of the coaches at Christian Brothers said, ‘We know who you are.’ So it’s good to see hard work does pay off.”
Corey drew interest from Middle Tennessee State as well in track. UT-Chattanooga had Smith on its radar because of his All-Region performance in football at wide receiver.
“We’re super proud because he has worked hard for this,” Barry said. “He always said he was a D-I athlete. For him to get this offer is like icing on the cake. We can’t wait to see how far he goes with this.
“As a parent of course you’re a little nervous about him playing football,” he continued. “I thought at first, ‘Hey he just wants to go out there and hang with his buddies while playing some football.’ But he excelled and it was that ‘wow’ moment. It was great to see him out there.”
No. 3 was the go-to guy for Trojans Head Football Coach Chris Michael and Millington quarterback Tommy Clifton. Smith’s speed helped him lead the team in touchdown receptions.
Mia said his natural ability in athletics started to come to fruition at the age of 4 playing basketball, baseball, football and track.
“He’s played it all but it all started with soccer,” she said. “He was with the SYS Pee Wee League at 4. Actually his first one was with the YMCA here in Millington. He broke SYS records his first year playing football.”
Continuing to break records in all his athletic endeavors, Smith’s discipline and dedication was validated with the UT-Martin offer.
“I am excited to be a part of the program, the school and now I am ready to get to work,” Corey said. “Went up there on visit and I loved campus, coach and it felt good to me. It was a lot of hard work was put in. Time put in playing football and doing track.”
Smith also worked hard in the classroom with solid grades and ACT score to qualify for any college on his wish-list.
“I am a student/athlete, and student comes first,” he said. “You’ve got to hit the book. None of this would be here if it wasn’t for the academics.”
MCHS Principal Dr. Clint Durley and other staff spoke highly of Smith as a person and said he will be missed on the campus.
“Proud, absolutely proud of him,” Mia said. “He has always risen up to everything. As a parent you’re nervous all the time on whether he’s staying on track. But I never really had to worry that much about him. He’s done the work and got things done. He’s been a great kid.”
Barry said when it comes to making the right decisions in life, Corey usually heads down the correct path.
“He’s always been the type of kid we don’t have to motive to do stuff,” he said. “He does it on his own. Model student on his academics and athletes. That’s all him.”
Corey disagreed with his father’s assessment saying good coaches, teachers, teammates, friends and parenting got him to this accomplishment. He is grateful for the time his mother invested over the years.
“Growing up, she was at all my games,” Corey said. “She always put time in picking me up from practice. If it wasn’t for her, I definitely wouldn’t be here.”
When it came to how to work for something, Corey said he had a direct role model.
“Dad, just watching him growing up, he definitely put that work ethic in me,” he said. “He didn’t have to say much. It was just watching the man he was that help me be the young man I am.”
Now the 2019 Iron Trojan Male Athlete of the Year is preparing for his next step a few miles north. He hopes his previous stops have been positive to all he has encountered.
“Just as a person, athletics aside, I just want to make an impact on people,” Corey concluded. “If I can motivate other people through my actions, that’s all I ask for.”