5 things to know about 32-year-old Vanderbilt football player, active Navy officer Tommy Smith

Daniella Medina
Nashville Tennessean

Tommy Smith has his hands full. 

Smith is a 32-year-old walk-on tight end for the Vanderbilt football team, active U.S. Navy officer, master's student, husband and father of two. 

The Connecticut native and former Notre Dame player hasn't seen the field at either of Vanderbilt's two games this season, but is excited to finish out his last year of NCAA eligibility in Nashville. 

The fifth-year senior, as mentioned on Vanderbilt's roster, is studying at the university's Owen Graduate School of Management as a civilian postgraduate program. 

Here are five things to know about Tommy Smith. 

Tommy Smith facts

Vanderbilt tight end Tommy Smith
  • Full name: Thomas Smith
  • Jersey number: 93
  • Position: Tight end
  • Class: Fifth-year senior
  • Age: 32
  • Height: 6 feet, 1 inch
  • Weight: 226 pounds
  • Hometown: South Windsor, Connecticut 
  • High school: East Catholic

Tommy Smith had NCAA eligibility left after Navy tours

How does a 32 year old end up on a college football team?

Tommy Smith said he had a year left of NCAA eligibility following his two years of playing football at Notre Dame as a walk-on. 

"I knew I had some eligibility remaining and a way to play as far as the NCAA was concerned," Smith said. "I reached out to a close friend of mine, Nick Lezynski, who I played with at Notre Dame and is an analyst on Notre Dame's staff. I told him that I knew I had some eligibility left and wanted to play at Vanderbilt so he put me in contact with Coach (Clark) Lea's staff. I felt like I was up to the task and knew how to take care of myself and be a smarter player. I had something left to give and after some talks with people, they gave me that opportunity."

Vanderbilt tight end Tommy Smith practices with the team during the offseason.

Tommy Smith is not the oldest college football player

According to oldest.org, a website that lists the oldest things that exist on Earth, Alan Moore from Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama, is the oldest college football player on record at 61 years old in 2011. 

Of the seven oldest college football players listed, No. 7 is 32-year-old James Stefanou who played at University of Colorado Boulder in 2019. 

The list was last updated in June 2019. 

Tom Gore:45-year-old NC college football player is ready to take the field

Vanderbilt tight end Tommy Smith practices with the team during the offseason.

Tommy Smith was stationed in the Middle East, plans to serve again

At Notre Dame, Tommy Smith served at the university's Naval ROTC program. He went on to work full time for the Navy ROTC after two years of playing football at Notre Dame. Then he went to dive school in Panama City and spent a year of training at Eglin Air Force Base to become an Explosive Ordnance Disposable Officer. 

Smith was stationed on three tours in the Middle East. 

Smith said he plans to finish the 2021 football season at Vanderbilt, finish his MBA program next year and then serve again. Smith was recently promoted to lieutenant commander. 

Vanderbilt tight end Tommy Smith practices with the team during the offseason.

Tommy Smith has wife, 2 kids

Tommy Smith met his wife, Allison, who also serves in the Navy, while stationed in the Middle East. 

Smith said Allison takes care of their two children, a son and a daughter, while he's at school and football practice. 

Tommy Smith hasn't seen playing time yet, but is still excited about season

Vanderbilt tight end Tommy Smith practices with the team during the offseason.

Tommy Smith did not appear in Vanderbilt's season opener against East Tennessee State and did not travel with the team to play Colorado State. 

Despite not seeing playing time, Smith said he's excited for the team and to be a part of it. 

"I see a lot of the changes and the culture that Coach Lea is instilling around here and that's very reminiscent to when Coach (Brian Kelly) came to Notre Dame and instilled that culture there," Smith said. "I've told the guys here that and that I'm excited for them. I remember what that was like at Notre Dame and it was a blast. Selfishly, I'm excited to get to experience that with Coach Lea for a year and I'm excited for the guys to experience that going forward."

Joe Spears contributed to this report. 

Daniella Medina is a digital producer for the USA TODAY Network. Follow her on Twitter @danimedinanews