Tyrone Smith Gets His Chance
Redshirt sophomore defensive end Tyrone Smith has experienced a lot of hardship during in his life. The 6′ 4″ 251 pound Smith grew up living in Pittsburgh, and at the age of 13 he lost his mother to kidney failure. That same month his grandfather, who he had lived with his entire life, passed as well.
Last year Smith lost his brother Andrew Smith, who was caught up in a brawl over owed money. Antonio Stamps, the other man in the fight, shot Smith in the face hospitalizing him for a month before he passed away. Stamps has since been convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
“It’s kind of rough,” said Smith of growing up in Pittsburgh “It’s not like up here.”
Smith graduated from Langley High school in 2010. He was a star tight end and defensive end for the Mustangs and earned All-City honors.
Out of high school Smith was recruited heavily by some Division II schools and some at the Football Championship Subdivision. However, an injury sidelined his football career.
“I had a full ride to Cornell, UMass and Bowling Green but I messed my knee up,” said Smith. “So I just came here.”
It wasn’t long after Smith got on to Penn State’s campus that he felt the urge to suit up again.
“I saw some of the people playing, and I felt like I could play as good as they did,” said Smith. “So I decided to try and play.”
Smith, wanting to bulk up before the tryout, trained with Devin Pryor to prepare. Smith did not make the team at either of his first two tryouts but used his failures and the memory of his family to motivate him to work even harder.
“They’re basically my motivation,” said Smith of his family. “That’s basically why I do everything I do.”
It wasn’t until head coach Bill O’Brien took over would Smith get his shot with the Nittany Lions.
After O’Brien was hired, Smith met with John Strollo, Penn State’s tight ends coach. Strollo told Smith that another tryout was possible for him but nothing was guaranteed. It wasn’t until graduate assistant coach and former player Elijah Robinson got involved that Smith would get a private workout.
Robinson had been at Smith’s two previous tryouts and had been impressed with what he saw. “Elijah knew me from the last tryout and he was like ‘I’ve been trying to get you on for two years,’ and basically vouched for me and said to give me a work out and they gave me a workout,” said Smith.
Smith would join the team in the winter right before offseason workouts started. Since he already had friends on the team, the transition from student to student-athlete was a smooth one.
“With knowing people, it was like coming home to friends, basically,” said Smith.