You could excuse Trevyn Smith’s family if they felt like perhaps they were targets of an unfair deal of goodbyes that came too soon.
Smith’s mother died one year ago (on her husband’s birthday, no less), and his grandfather one month later — amid many others throughout extended family in recent years.
But for the family of a young father of four like Smith, last week’s news seemed especially harsh.
Smith, one of the most accomplished players in Weber State football history, died on July 4. He was 32.
While he was always underestimated, intense and ultra competitive, those who knew Trevyn say he was a goofball with a big heart, and one of the kindest people you’d ever meet — often sowing goodwill when nobody was watching.
“He was often misunderstood if people met him in a short period of time,” his wife, Erica, said. “Typically, by someone’s third encounter, they want to live in my house, they want to be his best friend. And most people feel like they are.”
Trevyn didn’t just play running back. He was a running back. At 5-foot-10, he led the state of Utah in rushing in 2004 with 2,108 yards at Springville High School.
Starring at Weber State from 2006-09, Trevyn became one of just four players in Big Sky Conference history to be named to the conference first team four times. He finished with what is still a school-record 5,029 rushing yards, along with 43 rushing touchdowns in 48 games, and an all-time best 6,420 all-purpose yards.
He’s more than 1,400 rushing yards ahead of WSU’s all-time No. 2 rusher, Nick Chournos. He rushed for 1,000 or more yards in each of his four seasons. He was a key part in helping the Wildcats to a 17-9 overall record in his final two seasons with a 13-3 mark in conference play.
To put his career rushing mark in perspective, sophomore-to-be Josh Davis would need to replicate his breakout 2018 season of 1,362 rushing yards three times, with little wavering, to overtake Trevyn’s record.
That doesn’t come without a deep reservoir of competitiveness.
Ron McBride, WSU’s head coach from 2005-11, said the Wildcats had a good group of running backs when Trevyn arrived and it only took a few practices in fall camp for the freshman to speak up.
“I’m better than all these guys,” McBride recalls Trevyn saying.
“You don’t even know the offense,” the grizzled coach responded.
But it was only a matter of a few games into that season before injuries pushed Trevyn into the starting role.
“After that it was all his, everyone else had to take a back seat,” McBride said. “He would play hurt. He wasn’t going to lose his reps to anybody.”
Matt Hammer, now back at Weber State as a linebackers coach, was Trevyn’s position coach and later offensive coordinator with the Wildcats.
“He played with extreme confidence ... he thought he was overlooked and always played with chip on his shoulder, trying to prove people wrong,” Hammer said.
Trevyn and Erica moved their family back to Utah just more than a year ago from Hawaii, so Hammer said he’d been working with Trevyn to come to practice and speak with the team later this year.
What might have Trevyn told this year’s team?
“Anything’s possible. You can be great in any circumstance you’re in. And, he’d probably finish it off with some smart-aleck remark that nobody’s better than he is,” Hammer laughed. “He’d have said it right to Josh — go ahead and try to chase those 5,000 yards.”
“He’s one of the best competitors who will ever play on that field ... what he gave every game is unmatched. His teammates ... knew he was going to show up every Saturday and play as hard as he possibly could to help his team win.”
Trevyn and Erica met while she was going to school at Utah Valley. She dated his younger brother and the two didn’t hit it off, a story his brother eventually told Trevyn.
“However he presented it to Trevyn came off as a challenge, obviously. He’s pretty competitive,” Erica said.
She said for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah County, it’s not unusual for college-aged men to obtain phone numbers and blindly text women for dates. So Trevyn texted her.
“I politely texted back, ‘I’m not interested if you’re just another missionary from the ward, please don’t contact me again,’” Erica, an Idaho native, said.
He responded: “Actually, my name’s Trevyn Smith. I’m a pretty big deal, you’ve probably heard of me.”
But they bantered back and forth, eventually went on a date and “that was all she wrote. It was a quick wedding after that,” she said.
“He is wild and a whole lot of fun — outspoken and sometimes borderline inappropriate.”
Two of their four children came while Trevyn was still toting the rock for the Wildcats. Their first, a daughter named Ryan, arrived blind in one eye and mostly blind in the other due to optic nerve hypoplasia they believed stemmed from her premature birth.
As their family grew and his playing eligibility ran out, Trevyn stuck around at Weber State for a season as a graduate assistant coach before they packed up for Hawaii.
McBride tells a story about a college all-star game in St. George in which several players pulled out on late notice.
McBride, helping coach at the event, said they sorely needed a running back so the scouting showcase could go on. He called Trevyn, who was three years past his college eligibility, as McBride recalls. If one guy could be up to the challenge without working out, it would be his former star tailback.
“Yeah, I’ll come do it,” McBride said was Trevyn’s response. “But I get to have all the reps.”
Trevyn showed up, rushed for more than 100 yards and afterwards said, “I’m a little tired and sore, but I’ll be OK.”
“He was a special character,” McBride said. “But a good character.”
In Hawaii, Trevyn rose to regional manager of an alarm company and later helped another security business there launch a successful marketing program, moving them to Louisana and Florida before they decided they wanted to go back to Hawaii for good.
While Erica says she often had to play buffer to Trevyn’s forthright, brash nature, he was always successful in everything he did — though “material possessions are of no value to him,” she said.
Once, he came into the room where Erica, the family bookkeeper, was meeting with an agent to file their taxes for the year and he was surprised to learn how much money he made.
He turned to his wife and said, wryly: “I do all right, don’t I?”
Trevyn suffered a stroke and heart attack in June 2017, Erica said, and they learned he had congestive heart failure. He decided the kids were too old to be away from family and for him to be away from them at work. They moved back to Utah County so he could focus on coaching their oldest son in football and they could be surrounded by their extended families.
“There is no more involved dad on the whole planet,” Erica said. “He’s a far better parent than I am, and I’m pretty decent.”
That was typical, using present tense to speak about Trevyn. Erica admitted she and Trevyn might not worship like typical Latter-day Saints but said their convictions are strong. A key tenet of the faith is a belief in the eternal nature of families, extending beyond death into the next life.
“If it’s not all that we’re told it’s going to be, I’m going to be really upset,” she said in a broken voice. “Because it’s about all we have to hold on to right now.”
Erica said the support they’ve received since Trevyn’s passing has been touching, so overwhelming that she could never personally thank everyone who has reached out.
The family is accepting donations to help defray costs from Trevyn’s health issues and his death, largely brought about because his health prevented him from obtaining life insurance. Those can be sent via Venmo to @smithfamily25 or paid to Central Bank, a Utah County institution, into a fund under Erica or Trevyn Smith.
As profoundly grateful as she is for those donations, Erica said many have also reached out to share stories that illustrate how many people he touched, “stories coming out of the woodwork of just the kind things Trevyn did.
“I think that’s why he got to leave this life early.”
According to a published death notice, Trevyn’s funeral services will be held at 12:15 p.m. Saturday in the gymnasium at Springville High. Family and friends can visit from 6-8 p.m. Friday and again from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday prior to the services.