KNOXVILLE — This weekend former Vols Brett Kendrick and Josh Smith will take their shots at the NFL, participating in rookie mini-camps with the Lions and Saints, respectively.
The pair won two state championships as teammates in high school at Christian Academy of Knoxville, coached by father-son duo Rusty and Mark Bradley.
VIDEO WEB EXTRA: CAK State Championships Archive Video
Rusty is now the head coach at Grace Christian, with Mark coaching on his staff.
They recognized the potential of Kendrick and Smith early.
"I had Josh (Smith) in middle school P.E. sixth through eighth grade," Rusty Bradley said. "I told him and his dad in sixth grade that Josh was going to be a Division I receiver and I think they both laughed at me when I told them that."
The Bradley's met Kendrick when he was a sophomore, transferring to CAK from, ironically, Grace Christian.
"Honestly, at the end of the first day of practice, I told his dad, in my opinion he was a Division I offensive lineman," said Mark Bradley.
Smith was injured his freshman year in high school and hadn't quite reached his growth spurt yet as a sophomore, although he was still productive in the Warriors high-flying offense, reeling in about 65 catches.
Then he broke out.
"His junior year, he just took off, caught 96 balls for close to 2,000 yards I think and 21 touchdowns," Rusty said.
VIDEO WEB EXTRA: Josh Smith Vols career highlights
Kendrick had the size to be a college lineman and his athleticism set him apart.
"The first three clips on his highlight tape were of things he was doing playing basketball," Mark said.
"He was a big guy, at the time probably 6'5", 265-270 (pounds) and he could dribble, pull up and shoot a three, he could dribble between the legs and do all the things a point guard could do," Rusty said.
Both players followed their hearts to their hometown school, Tennessee.
"Playing in Neyland Stadium in front of all the fans and the orange and white, that meant a lot to them," Rusty said.
Kendrick and Smith kept in touch with the Bradley's while in college, coming back to CAK for practices and games when they could. Kendrick even spent a couple days with them in Jackson, when the Bradley's moved to West Tennessee for a year to coach at USJ. Kendrick has been working out at Grace Christian while preparing for his NFL shot and Smith stopped by a Rams practice last week.
When Kendrick signed with the Lions, he mentioned in a tweet that it wouldn't have happened without Mark Bradley.
"That means everything, that's why you do this," Mark Bradley said. "That was very kind of him to say that. There are a lot of people who have poured into Brett, most of all his parents but that was a very meaningful thing and I appreciated it very much."
VIDEO WEB EXTRA: Mark Bradley on Brett Kendrick full interview
Seeing their former players get their shot at the highest level has been a surreal experience.
"Just because you know them off the field and you know their character and you know the type of people that they are and they're good guys with good hearts and football is what they do but it doesn't define them," Rusty said.
"They have football in the right perspective and I'm proud of their character and what they've done to get to this point. It's definitely surreal and I'm excited for them just to go and give it their best shot."
VIDEO WEB EXTRA: Rusty Bradley on Brett Kendrick and Josh Smith