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Former UT lineman dies from flu complications

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  • Former UT lineman dies from flu complications

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    Former UT lineman dies from flu complications

    Deadly complications from the flu have touched the UT football family. Jeff Smith, who was a walk-on offensive lineman out of West High School in the late 70's, died Sunday at St. Mary's Medical Center. Smith had been Offensive Line Coach at Grace Christian Academy, where his son plays.

    Posted: 6:00 PM Sep 28, 2009
    Reporter: Mark Edwards
    Email Address:

    KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Those who knew Jeff Smith best say he was a coach's coach, totally in his element working with the Rams' offensive line.

    "He was a great coach. It really helped a lot that he played for UT so we knew that he knew what he was talking about," said Rams 8th grade Offensive Lineman Heath Hatmaker.

    "His work ethic carried over to them and they were able to feel what he brought to the field and what he brought to practice and they fed off of his energy and his enthusiasm." Middle School Athletic Director Tim Jinkins told WVLT.

    According to school officials, Smith got sick in August, and didn't seem to be getting any better. He missed the Thursday game on September 10th, something that started to concern the players.

    "He showed up, we had a film session Friday and we watched the previous game and he showed up and sat in the hallway the whole time, didn't come in the room. We would go out and give him high 5's and he just wouldn't let us near him. You know, I'm sick. I shouldn't be touching you," said Hatmaker.

    Smith never got better and never returned to the sideline, checking himself into the hospital and eventually dying from pneumonia and flu complications.

    "And that's really the terrible thing about the flu virus is it can kill you in a variety of different ways. It weakens your defenses so you can catch a bacterial infection on top of the flu and you can end up getting another pneumonia as a complication of the flu virus," said Dr. Mark Rasnake, Infectious Disease Consultant at UT Medical Center.

    When Smith stopped coming to games and practices, the players immediately put his initials on their helmets...So their coach will be with them as the Rams seek another middle school title.

    "You know I gave it all before but with him being gone just I'm going to try my absolute best to keep up the offensive line and help us win the state championship," Hatmaker, said.