February 28, 2024


The waterworks were out in Knoxville on Saturday after a memorable family surprise.

The family of Lieutenant Commander Zachary Smith took to center court for the 17th-ranked Vols’ game against No. 20 Illinois for what they thought was just a video from the Navy dad.

But they got the surprise of a lifetime, as Smith was actually at the game.

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Tennessee Vols logo

A detailed view of the “T” logo of the Tennessee Volunteers as they line up for the National Anthem before playing the North Carolina Tar Heels on November 29, 2023, at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. North Carolina won 100-92.  (Peyton Williams/UNC/Getty Images)

Smith had been deployed in Guantánamo Bay for 10 months, according to the Vols.

Shortly after seeing the video message from the lieutenant commander, they were greeted by Smith.

Usually, it’s the family running over to their loved one for the surprise, but was apparent that Smith couldn’t contain his excitement on the court.

Smith ran right to his family and tried to group-hug them all simultaneously. It all worked out eventually.

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Understandably, no one let go for quite a while.

Smith’s surprise return came on the day of the Army-Navy football game, being played at Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots.

A perfect day got even better for Smith and his family, as Tennessee took home an 86-79 victory.

Tennessee basketball court

A general view of the arena as the Texas Longhorns and Tennessee Volunteers tip off at Thompson-Boling Arena on January 28, 2023, in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Eakin Howard/Getty Images)

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And now, the Smith family get to spend the holiday season together.

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