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And Yet Another Trotter Backgrounder


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A father's lessons lead to the NFL

By KEITH SCHLEIDEN, Managing editor

As published in print Aug. 10

Jeremiah Trotter

We’ve all heard the stories. A father has a son. He has lofty goals for that child. The father dreams of his son growing up to become a professional athlete. From early childhood on, that son is groomed by the father, groomed for stardom on an athletic field.

The names of Todd Marinovich and Tiger Woods quickly come to mind.

The name of Jeremiah Trotter doesn’t.

Trotter is in the middle of his first NFL training camp. As a third-round pick of the Eagles, he is currently battling James Willis for the starting MLB job. Trotter, too, was groomed for success from an early age. His father, Myra Trotter, had high expectations for son Jeremiah, one of his eight children. But Jeremiah wasn’t raised to be a football player; he was raised to be a solid person. A solid person with a strong work ethic. From an early age, Mr. Trotter expected his son to work. And ultimately, that work ethic has led Jeremiah to the world of professional sports, even if it wasn’t supposed to turn out this way.

You see, Jeremiah Trotter wasn’t allowed to play football as a child. It was not that he didn’t want to strap on a helmet and layer up in pads. It was that his daddy wouldn’t let him. The son had to help his father work. Jeremiah, and the other Trotter children, had to work to help support the family.

While the other boys in the small town of Hooks, Texas, would head off to junior-high football practice, Jeremiah would join his siblings and father and head off to work.

"I did want to play, but dad wouldn’t let me play because I had to stay at home and work," recalls Jeremiah. "I wouldn’t have had time with work and church. So he did not let me play in junior high."

So, from an early age, Jeremiah learned the importance of hard work from his father. Mr. Trotter didn’t teach his son how to throw a football or how to run a faster 40-yard dash, as some dads do while transforming a son into an athletic machine. He taught his son how to chop wood.

That was the Trotter family business.

"They chopped wood for firewood to sell during the winter," says Glenn Goen, Hooks High School varsity football coach. "Anybody in the community who needed firewood, they always had the Trotters in mind. There was always several cords of wood out in front of the Trotters’ house. If there was a tree that needed to be cut up, once it was down .... the size didn’t matter, the Trotter family would come in. Mr. Trotter and the boys and the girls would come in and clean the tree up. They would chop it, sweep up the leaves, get the twigs up, the limb wood, and haul it off. It would be split, cut, hauled off and completely cleaned up before sundown. Mr. Trotter would be out there raking those leaves, showing these kids exactly how to do it."

Not easy work, especially in the often oppressive Texas heat. It’s even harder when you’re just a kid and really want to be out playing football with your friends.

Jeremiah kept after his father. And finally, when Jeremiah reached high school, his father relented. Jeremiah, the third-youngest of the Trotter clan, was the first in the family to be allowed to participate in high-school athletics.

Although he was behind the other kids on the freshman football team, Jeremiah was a hard worker. He used that work ethic instilled by his father to pick up the football skills the other kids had learned at an earlier age.

"Jeremiah had never played any football," says Goen. "Some of the first football he ever saw, he played in. He was real far behind on a lot of the little techniques that come natural to kids that had played before. Some of those basics took a little longer for him to get, but, of course, he has worked hard. And he’s an extremely hard worker in the weightroom. And that’s what’s kind of made the difference in his life."

As a freshman, Trotter was used as a defensive tackle. He was called up to the varsity by the end of his first season. As a sophomore, he was moved to linebacker, although he didn’t start every week. By his junior and senior seasons, he was a starting linebacker.

The fact that he convinced his daddy to allow him to play football didn’t mean he didn’t have to pull his weight when it came to chopping wood. He was still expected to chip in with the work. That meant going to school all day, participating in football practice in the evening, and then back home to split logs at night.

"You know, when Jeremiah was in high school, football practice was easier than going home and working with his daddy," says Goen. "Jeremiah would rather be up there at the field house, lifting weights and going through football practice, than going home and chopping firewood. So football practice and games were easy for Jeremiah. Even when he got home at night, his daddy would be waiting for him. They’d have a light outside, and he’d still chop cordwood when he got to the house."

After high school, Jeremiah went on to Stephen F. Austin University, where he starred at linebacker. It was there that professional football began to become a possibility for Jeremiah. After three seasons of college football, the time came for Jeremiah to make a decision. Return for his senior season or declare himself eligible for the NFL draft. The decision was made easier knowing a pro contract could really help out the family.

"I wanted to come out," says Jeremiah. "I talked about it with my mom and dad. My dad was up in age. He was 74 at the time. And he wasn’t really able to work and to really provide for the family like he wanted to. So I decided to come out early so I could take over the family. He did a really good job working as long as he did, and it was my time to take over, and take care of him."

On Draft Day, the Trotter clan gathered at Jeremiah’s college apartment. His name was called on the first day of the draft, in Round Three. Third-round picks don’t earn millions of dollars a year right out of college, but they make a lot more than your average woodcutter.

Jeremiah signed a four-year deal worth $1.2 million.

Unfortunately, the man he wanted to take care of never will get to partake in any of his son’s generosity. Jeremiah wanted to take care of his father, the person who helped mold him into the man he is today. But not long after the draft, on May 28, Mr. Trottter passed away. Even sadder, Mr. Trotter had never seen his son play football. All through high school and college, Jeremiah’s dad wasn’t able to come to a game. There was wood to be cut, and there were church services to attend. And then he got ill. It’s not that Mr. and Mrs. Trotter didn’t support their son. They certainly did. They wanted him to succeed, but, as Jeremiah puts it, "They weren’t going to miss church to come to a football game."

So far, Jeremiah has been making a name for himself in training camp.

"By watching him, he’s a young, very aggressive guy," says Eagle veteran LB William Thomas, a multiple Pro Bowler. "You can tell he’s strong. And he has instincts to just try to get to the ball.

"The guy’s ready to hit anything that moves. Anything in the opposite color, he’s ready to hit it. No matter what it is. That’s just his killer instinct that’s in him."

Jeremiah has the size, at 6-0, 260 pounds, to play inside linebacker in the NFL. And he has the speed to match. He is awfully aggressive and has excellent hustle. Throw in that work ethic, and you can count on this rookie making it in this league.

"A lot of it comes from working hard growing up, and it just carried over into the weightroom and the football field," says Jeremiah. "When you grow up working hard and you worked every day, it just carries over. I’m used to working. I know that nothing comes easy. I got to work for everything I get. I’m not looking for anything free. I’m not looking for any handouts. Anything I want, I’m gonna work for."

While Mr. Trotter passed away without ever seeing his son play the game that he loves, Jeremiah is certain that his father will finally get a chance to see him on the field this season.

"He was a Christian," says Jeremiah. "He loved God. So I know my dad will be up there watching. He’s never seen me play before, but I know he’ll be up there watching. I’m not only playing for the whole Eagle organization, I’m playing for my family and dedicating the season to my dad."

And I’m certain that, when Mr. Trotter sees his son take the field for the first time, he will be proud. Proud that not only has his son succeeded in doing what very few athletes do, making it to the highest level in football, but proud to know that it’s all because he taught his son the importance of hard work.

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