It was from those seats the they cheered on the Big Orange as they ran onto the surface in front of 102,000 others.
Now the Smith family will have a bigger smiles, louder claps, more fist pumps and possibly even a tear or two as Devin Smith accepted a preferred walk-on spot with the Volunteers on Saturday afternoon.
"It's awesome," Smith told InsideTennessee. "I'm getting goose bumps right now just thinking about it. I've watched Tennessee football my whole life and never really thought that I could be a part of like I do now. It's going to be awesome. It's phenomenal."
The opportunity was there weeks ago via coach Butch Jones and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian. However, the quarterback and his parents didn't act out of emotion and weighed the pros and cons before making the declaration.
"The thing about it," Smith said, "and coach Bajakian brought it up today, is even if you're a preferred walk-on and you go to the University of Tennessee, football only lasts X amount of years. It doesn't last your whole life. The big thing about UT is you can go to UT and graduate and be in the NFL and it's so much easier getting a job because you have that résumé as being quarterback for Tennessee. That's really the big picture is looking at your education and all that stuff and they have all that to offer."
The Grace Christian Academy standout chose the preferred spot on the Tennessee roster over scholarship offers from Lindsey Wilson College and Kentucky Christian University.
"The biggest thing for me was definitely the coaching," Smith said. "Coach Jones and coach Bajakian will always go out of their way to make me feel welcome. The other big thing is I've grown up my whole life being a UT fan. Me, my dad, my parents, we've had season tickets for 5 years. It was a great opportunity and it was so hard to turn down."
Smith joins another in-state product in accepting a roster spot with the Volunteers as Under Armour All-America long snapper Wesley Horky of Ravenwood High committed Monday and Presbyterian Christian (Miss.) School punter Troy Waites declared Tuesday. They join an incoming 2014 class that has more Scout four-stars than any program in the country.
"I had a chance to talk to Josh Malone today and Jalen Hurd," Smith said. "It's awesome because everybody has the same intensity of, you know, we don't want to win six games and just barely be bowl eligible. We want the championships and bring them back to Knoxville. Everybody has that one goal and that's awesome."
As is evidenced by the Volunteers currently holding the No. 2 spot in the Scout network's national recruiting rankings, the program and staff is going to pull in some of the finest players in the country year-in, year-out. It's quite possible Smith will never go under center during a game on Shields-Watkins Field. The Orange & White currently have four scholarship signal-callers — Joshua Dobbs, Riley Ferguson, Nathan Peterman and Justin Worley.
"Me and my family have talked about it and that's definitely the big elephant in the room," Smith said. "I just have to understand that I have to work my butt off each and every day. I can't get lackadaisical with anything. I have to be in the meeting rooms and practice and work out more than anyone on that team to be able to have a chance to get a chance at a starting position."
Chattanooga and East Tennessee State both showed interest. Smith says even if either place a scholarship offer on the table, he doesn't plan on wavering with his pledge to the Vols.
"No, no I don't see that happening," said Smith, who led the Rams to a 12-1 record his senior season. "I'm 100-percent committed to the University of Tennessee because the coaches are committed to me. That's a big thing to me. I will not change my commitment."
In 2013, Smith completed 170 of 266 passes (66.5 percent) for 2,977 yards with 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Last fall, Grace won District 3-A and reached the TSSAA Class 2A state semifinals before falling to Trousdale County 34-27 on Nov. 29. The Rams outscored opponents 580-174.
Tennessee has also looked at Dyersburg's Will Bradshaw and Decatur County's Luke Ward as possible additions to the roster for 2014 from a walk-on standpoint. However, it does not look like a QB will be faxing over a signed National Letter of Intent to Knoxville on Wednesday.
"It was probably the biggest factor because I have a great shot at being in the rotation," Smith said. "What coach Jones and coach Bajakian said today is it's all setting up a perfect scenario for a walk-on quarterback to get some playing time and get into the rotation at quarterback. It was definitely huge.
"(Jones) didn't specify if they're bringing in another walk-on quarterback or what. We'll just have to wait it out and see."
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