Rob's a true Volunteer

When injuries to David Ligon and Richie Gandy depleted Tennessee's depth at center barely a week into preseason camp, Rob Smith didn't wait for an engraved invitation. In keeping with the team nickname, he volunteered to fill the void.

The best options to fill the center spot appeared to be the Vols' starting guards – junior Smith and senior Cody Douglas. At least, that's the way Smith perceived it.

"I figured it'd be me or Cody," he said. "They (coaches) wanted to keep guys in there who have played a bunch, who have been in the battles and they feel they can depend on."

Rather than wait for the coaches to come to him with the suggestion, though, Smith went to them.

"At the first mention of me and Cody splitting snaps, I went to Coach (Jimmy Ray) Stephens and said, ‘I'll do it.' I wanted him to know it was my job and I was going to go all out for it," Smith recalled. "I was going to put my mind to it and that's all I was going to concentrate on – getting to be the best center I could be by the first game."

Although he had never played center previously, Smith picked up the nuances of the position in no time flat. He performed well in UT's last two preseason scrimmages, then handled the job quite capably in the regular-season opener against Alabama-Birmingham. Basically, he believes success is a matter of effort.

"I'd rather put the pressure on myself to go all out," he says. "That way I won't have no regrets, think I went halfway on it. I'd know I went all out."

Although Smith's move to center appeared to be smooth, he says he was a little nervous in the beginning.

"I don't know how confident I was at first," he said. "I wanted to move there, and I put pressure on myself to get the job done. I was worried at first that I'd mess up snaps and all that stuff. But Coach Stephens and Coach Fulmer kept hounding me on my snaps, so I got better at that."

So, when did Smith begin to realize he could perform adequately at center?

"Probably the first scrimmage (following the switch)," he said. "After 10 to 15 plays, I thought, ‘Hey, this isn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.' "

With Gandy and Ligon expected to return soon, Smith could be back at guard by the time UT plays Florida Sept 17 at The Swamp in Gainesville. Still, his willingness to move to center and his determination to play the position to the best of his ability – even on a fill-in basis – underscores what Rob Smith means to the Vol football team.

This guy is a Volunteer in the truest sense of the word.


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