LARAMIE -- Trey Smith was born in Dallas, grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., and went to high school in Madison, Miss.
He’s lived a warm-weather life.
And then, he showed up in Laramie last May, where he was settling in to spend his final year of college football as a running back for the University of Wyoming.
“The first day I was here, there was four inches of snow,” he said with a smile. “I wasn’t prepared for it at all. I didn’t have gloves, nothing to clean my car with. That’s okay. I’m prepared for it now.”
Most of all, though, he’s prepared to add a veteran touch to an otherwise youthful running back segment of the Cowboys roster. Smith played 32 games over the last three seasons for the University of Louisville, averaging 5.1 yards per carry, and he grew up in a football family. His father, Jimmy, is the Jacksonville Jaguars’ career receiving leader.
The Cowboys have eight running backs listed on their fall roster. Smith and sophomore Xazavian Valladay, however, are the only ones who have ever appeared in a college football game. Brett Brenton from Casper and Austin Clemetson from Gillette are redshirt freshmen. Titus Sween from Fort Worth, Alfonso Andrews, Jr., from St. Louis, Jeremy Hollingsworth from Longmont, and Dawaiian McNeely from Ceres, Ca., are true freshmen.
Valladay did make an impression when he drew the start in the season finale against New Mexico after Nico Evans was injured against Air Force the week before and responded with 192 yards rushing in that game.
But the key to the running game last year was Evans. He averaged 132.5 yards in the 10 games he started, despite having two of those games cut short by injuries – on the opening possession against Air Force and first possession of the second half against Washington State. His first three years, he was the primary blocking back on third down. He appeared in 37 games but carried the ball a total of only 36 times for 108 yards.
That caught Smith’s attention. That showed that head coach Craig Bohl and his staff are open in evaluations.
“We had lost a lot of fire power,” Bohl said of the recruitment of Smith. “For us to get an experienced buy, who can run the ball, pass protect and catch the ball was a really, really important get. … We knew he was out there. His name was in the (transfer) portal. We watched a lot of tape. We talked to different coaches. We felt it was the right fit, and he felt we were the right fit for him.”
Smith agreed. He knows Valladay is going to be a big part of the offensive game plan, and is there to provide support, but he also knows there is an opportunity for him to get increased playing time. All he has to do is earn the nod from the coaching staff.
“This is my last chance to put my name on that board,” Smith said. “I feel like the team I’ve been around the past couple weeks is amazing. They took me in. It’s been a blast. I would’ve never though I would have this much fun in Laramie, Wyoming, but it’s really a dream come true. It’s a second home for me.”
Already, Smith said, there is a strong bond between himself and Valladay.
“We’re like brothers already,” said Smith. “We had a discussion. I’m not about trying to get this amount of carries. I’m here to be part of the team. We have these rookies here, too. I want to form a brother bond with them and accomplish great things as a team. It’s going to be competition, but we are brothers at the end of the day.
“X has been teaching the young guys, and I am his second-hand man. Whatever he needs me to do, I’ll help. Last year was a tough year. We were last (in the ACC and head coach Bobby Petrino was fired). I’d never been in a position where we (finished) last.”
With the Cowboys, he joined a team that won the Mountain West Mountain Division in 1998 and rallied to win its final four games a year ago to become bowl eligible for three consecutive seasons for the first time since 1997-98.
He also joined a team where he knew he was wanted.
“Coach Gordy (Haug) actually contacted me the day after I announced my transfer, and we talked just about every day from then on,” said Smith. “I really understood how bad they wanted me, and the feeling was mutual.
“This is my chance to come to the West, explore a different type of football, and come to a rich traditional running back school. … There were plenty of other schools, trying to figure out if they wanted me, if I fit their scheme. Then coach Gordy showed me the most attention and the most love. I felt if he believed in my game that much, I wanted to play for him.”
And then there is that appeal of the Wyoming outdoors.
I’m from Mississippi,” he said. “We know how to hunt and fish. We have a farm in Mississippi, so I’m used to doing those things.”
And in the winter. . .
“I haven’t been on a snowmobile, but I have gone skiing and snowboarding,” he said. “I plan to do that after the season. Snowboarding is my thing.”
Football, however, remains the focus.
And it was the lure that brought him to Wyoming.