When I heard the news the former Springville and Weber State running back Trevyn Smith had died last week, I was simply shocked and saddened.
And then the memories started coming back.
I recalled standing on a sideline in Springville nearly 15 years ago as a rookie full-time sports reporter, covering my very first high school playoff game.
With Smith as the workhorse, the Red Devils were good that year — very, very good.
Springville had rolled through the regular season undefeated and appeared poised to make a run at a 4A state championship.
One of the teams that had gotten in their way was Timpview, a team that featured stars like Harvey Unga, Stephen Covey, Luke Ashworth and Matt and Houston Reynolds.
This was a Thunderbird team that pounded everyone that year by at least 20 points.
Except when Timpview played the Red Devils.
“That was only loss we had during my senior year,” Unga said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “Trevyn singlehandedly ran anywhere he wanted to against us. He was a special running back. It wasn’t just the running part either. A lot of what he did had to do with catching the ball because he could run great routes. You didn’t find too many backs who were able to do that.”
Springville jumped out to a 34-10 lead and cruised to the 34-24 win over the dynamic Thunderbird squad, sending a message about just how good a team the Red Devils had.
But then came Oct. 30, 2004.
I headed to Springville expecting the home team — the Region 6 champs — to again dominate against the No. 4-seeded visitors from Logan and their star junior quarterback, Riley Nelson.
“From the second we turned on the film, we knew Smith was a problem,” Nelson said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “Our game plan was to limit him and make everyone else beat us. The best we could do was giving up like 275 yards and five touchdowns. He was such an extraordinary player. Everyone put forth their best efforts to stop him but couldn’t do it.”
I still remember watching the Red Devils just give the ball to Smith, who could run inside or out, who looked like he would run over guys but then elude defenders and go right past them.
“He knew how to run the ball and also knew how to catch the ball,” Unga said. “He knew stuff you can’t teach. Something he was great at was making guys miss. He would do it all the time but if he needed to get the hard two or three yards to get a first down, he was ready to run over someone.”
Doug Bills, who was Springville’s head coach that year, said the most important quality Smith had was his drive.
“What I remember was the competitor he was,” Bills said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “He willed himself to win. But the other thing I remember is that he was a kindhearted kid. He would act tough but had a kind heart. He was someone who wore his emotions on his sleeve and got after it every chance he got.”
Smith certainly did it that day, running over, around and through the Grizzlies defense. Nelson recalled that one of the reasons Logan was able to stay close was the weather made the field muddy.
“The field was in terrible shape because we’d had a lot of rain,” Nelson said. “It was really muddy and that was fortunate for us. I remember Smith putting his foot in the ground to make a cut and slipping a number of times. If it had been a dry field or turf, he might have had twice as many yards.”
Unga was busy at his own first round game that day but likely wouldn’t have been surprised by Smith’s performance. He had seen him in action at football camps and knew what he was capable of.
“The guy was a beast,” Unga said. “I remember it was our junior year going into our senior year and we went to BYU football camp. I was watching him there and he was killing everyone. We did 1-on-1 drills, running the ball and running routes, and I was watching him taking on guys who got offered scholarships and he was killing them.”
On that muddy October day, however, Smith and his Red Devils simply couldn’t put away Nelson and the Grizzlies.
Logan tied the game late to force overtime, then held on in the third extra period to upset Springville when the final pass — a wheel route to Smith — sailed out of bounds.
Nelson and I both recalled the heartbreak and disappointment that the talented Red Devil players couldn’t hide in that moment. Bills called it one of his worst memories from coaching football.
It would be the last time I ever saw Smith play in person.
I saw his accomplishments at Weber State as he went on to have great college success.
“He was a kid who was never satisfied,” Bills said. “Weber State found out what type of competitor he was. He wasn’t starting but then he got on the field and for the next four years he dominated that whole conference up there. High school coaches always like to see guys go on and succeed, so it made me smile to see him go on and perform the way he did.”
Although there are good memories from the past, Nelson, Unga and Bills all felt profound sadness at hearing of Smith’s death this past week.
“I remember reading about it, about his wife and having four kids,” Unga said. “That really got to me. I couldn’t imagine not being with my kids or having my kids not with me. My heart broke. His kids had an amazing dad. My heart goes out to his wife, kids, parents and their family.”
Nelson added: “I remember thinking as a teenager that superior athletes were immune to problems or that the rules of normal life didn’t apply. But they do. In moments like this, you feel immense sorrow and sadness for the family and those left behind. For me, you also realize life is fleeting and not every day is guaranteed. Whether you are an average-Joe or have had your five minutes of fame in athletics, you could be here one day and gone the next.”
I also wish to extend my condolences to his family and the Red Devil community. Although I never faced Smith on the gridiron like Unga and Nelson or coached him like Bills did, I will always admire what he did for Springville football.