Feb. 11, 2011
Tennessee senior John-Patrick Smith will be honored Friday evening as the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame's 2010 Male Amateur Athlete of the Year.
The three-time All-America tennis standout from Townsville, Australia, will be among those recognized for sports achievement at the TSHF annual awards banquet and induction ceremony at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville.
"Obviously, it's a great honor and accomplishment," Smith said. "I'm proud to get the honor, to get amongst the names just looking down the list of past winners. I'm definitely looking forward to going down there and accepting it in Nashville. It's just a great opportunity."
Smith wrapped up a junior season unlike any other in UT tennis history. He held the No. 1 national ranking in both singles and doubles at times during the year while he helped lead the Vols to their first SEC regular-season title since 2000, earning him honors as SEC Player of the Year.
He enjoyed an undefeated run at the top of the Vols' singles and doubles lineup at the SEC Championships, picking up MVP honors for his performance as the Vols became the first team ever to shut out all three opponents on their way to the tournament title. The Vols eventually reached the finals of the NCAA Championships for the third time and finished second in the national rankings.
Not surprisingly, Smith found success in individual tournaments as well. He became the third player to ever capture both the singles and doubles titles at the prestigious ITA All-American Championships. He and Davey Sandgren, who set the UT season record with 41 wins together, reached the finals of the NCAA Doubles Championships for a second time.
In addition to his excellence on the court, Smith was also recognized nationally by opposing coaches as one of the most likable and well-respected individuals in the sport. He was given the Rafael Osuna Sportsmanship Award as well as the ITA Ohio Valley Region Arthur Ashe Award for Sportsmanship and Leadership. Smith, an economics major, also earned numerous academic awards and paced the Vols in the classroom.
Smith is the first player in UT tennis program history to be honored by the TSHF for an annual award, which dates back to 1968. Tommy Bartlett, the Vols' SEC title-winning player and coach in the 1950s and 60s, is the only individual with program ties in the hall of fame.
"First of all, it's important to say this award means a tremendous amount to him," Tennessee head coach Sam Winterbotham said. "He understands he's the first in many ways. To be the first on that list - to be in the same sentence with those guys - is a massive accomplishment on his part. He's very humble on his part as well.
"He does everything right. He's a very worthy recipient. How he's represented himself in his time here at Tennessee."
The firsts and program milestones are not likely to stop for Smith on Friday. He is only eight wins away from becoming Tennessee's all-time leader in doubles. He also has the opportunity to become the Vols' first four-time All-America recipient at season's end.
Smith, alongside fellow seniors Boris Conkic and Matteo Fago, have helped elevate the Vols back among the elite programs in the nation. When they arrived on campus, Tennessee was ranked 25th. They enter Saturday's 6 p.m. match at Duke ranked third.
"We're just incredibly proud of him," Winterbotham said. "For our program to be recognized indirectly through JP is wonderful. I'm just so proud of him and the team, and what they've accomplished together. It's just been a great ride. He's going to continue to represent our university extremely well long after he's finished playing here."
While Smith is the only active Vol to be honored at the banquet Friday, that hardly means he is the only athlete with university ties. The Female Amateur Athlete of the Year is track standout Phoebe Wright, who finished her career in 2010. Pitchers R.A. Dickey and Monica Abbott were named Professional Athletes of the Year.
Two former UT football players and a coach are among the 11 being enshrined into the hall of fame: Tim Irwin, Jackie Walker and head coach Bill Battle.
Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Inductees and Awards
2011 Hall of Fame Inductees
Bob Dudley Smith
Male Amateur Athlete of the Year: John-Patrick Smith
Female Amateur Athlete of the Year: Phoebe Wright
Male Professional Athlete of the Year: R.A Dickey; David Price
Female Amateur Athlete of the Year: Monica Abbott
Amateur Teams of the Year: Union University women's basketball; Cumberland University baseball; Lee University women's soccer.