They call him 'The Streak'

Tennessee's offense has been wildly inconsistent the past two years, yet there has been one constant: Rob Smith. The 6-4, 306-pound junior offensive lineman has started 22 consecutive games – all 13 in 2004 and the first nine of 2005.

"The most important thing is helping the team out," he said this week. "It's more of a personal sense of pride not to miss games."

Smith routinely plays hurt but he is not oblivious to pain. He just won't allow it to end his streak … a streak that actually began 15 years ago.

"I've never missed a game I was slated to start, ever since first grade," he said, clearly proud of the accomplishment.

His streak was in jeopardy a few times, though.

"When I was in eighth grade playing freshman football I broke my wrist," Smith recalled. "But I had it casted up and the very next week I was playing. Every time that cast would get hit, though, it was pretty rough."

He had another close call earlier this season.

"The week after I hurt my ribs at Alabama every time I'd go to make a cut block it took the breath out of me," he said. "I was gasping. That was kind of rough."

He also was nursing shoulder and knee injuries that week as the Vols opened preparations for the Notre Dame game.

"The first few days I couldn't lift my arm above parallel," he recalled.

When kickoff time arrived that Saturday, however, Rob Smith was in the starting lineup at left guard.

A former offensive lineman himself, UT head coach Phillip Fulmer can appreciate Smith's heart, dedication and willingness to play through pain.

"Rob's been one of the steady guys through this whole year – with his production as a player, his leadership as a captain and his toughness," Fulmer said. "He's fought through some injuries to get himself back out there – ribs and shoulder, a sore knee one week.

"I love Rob Smith and I love how he plays the game. To me, he's one of those guys that's an All-American."

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