Note: The following appears in the Notre Dame football gameday program.
Jeremiah Trotter Jr. grew up living and breathing sports. While he played baseball and basketball during his youth, it was never a surprise that football became his true passion. After all, his father spent 11 years dominating the NFL as a linebacker with Philadelphia, Washington and Tampa Bay. It is safe to say that athletic excellence runs in the Trotter family.
When his father, who wore #54 like his son, retired from the NFL following the 2009 season, he was just seven years old. Nonetheless, watching his father’s highlights and spending time around the game as a kid ensured that football would be his calling. Trotter always admired his father’s physical and aggressive style of play, sometimes so much so that it would limit his performance in other sports. This is one of the many reasons why football was always his preference.
“I wanted to play a sport that I could be aggressive in. I enjoy the contact aspect of football. I knew basketball was not for me because I would always foul out. Of course, my dad also taught me how to play the game of football since I was young, and I really grew to love it.”
Trotter remembered attending his father’s games as a kid, but his induction into the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame in 2016 sticks out the most. The appreciation that was shown to his father on that day inspires him to work as hard as he possibly can.
“Attending my father’s induction ceremony to the Eagles Hall of Fame had a huge impact on me. They really showed what kind of player he was and the tough mentality he brought to the field every game. The ceremony inspired me to play the game hard like my dad did. He inspires me to represent the Trotter name to the best of my ability.”
Often times, it can be seen as a lot to live up to when an athlete’s father has such an impressive career in professional sports, but the younger Trotter does not look at it that way. More than anything, he sees his father’s success as a reason to work harder.
“I don’t feel pressure to live up to my dad’s career, because my dad has always taught me not to play with pressure. I have to focus on being the best version of myself. God has blessed me with the talent to play the game of football, so I feel like I need to go out there, rely on my technique and put in all the hard work. If I do that, I believe the rest will work out on its own.”
In high school, Trotter already seemed to have the makings of an excellent football player. At one point, he was rated as the No. 7 overall player in the nation by ESPN. Nonetheless, some schools doubted his ability to perform in the long run as a linebacker. Clemson was not one of them.
“One of the main reasons why I chose Clemson was because they believed that I could perform at a high level at the linebacker position at my size. Some doubted me. Clemson recognized my talent and had confidence that I could develop into the player I am now. They believed in me.”
Trotter was also extremely impressed by how the coaches and team handled themselves when he first visited Clemson. He believes that what the team preaches has always aligned with his beliefs.
“The culture at Clemson was something that impressed me during my visit. Everyone always gives 110 percent, whether it’s practice or a game.”
Another reason why Clemson was so attractive to the New Jersey native was the weather.
“I’d rather play in the warm weather of the South than in the cold. That made the transition from the North easier.”
Once he arrived at Clemson, Trotter felt the team welcomed him with open arms. It was easy for him to embrace being a Tiger thanks to how supportive and hard-working his coaches and teammates were. The leadership of former Tiger linebackers Baylon Spector and James Skalski stood out the most.
“Two guys who always gave me great advice were Baylon Spector and James Skalski. They were both great linebackers here at Clemson before me. They really poured into me when I first got here as a freshman and taught me the importance of studying film as well as other important aspects of preparation. They set a pathway for how I need to handle myself and how to get better every day as a linebacker. Both of them exemplified what it means to be a leader.”
Now in his third season with the Tigers, Trotter has been able to make some long-lasting memories with his teammates. While he loves team-bonding activities off the field, such as spending time at the lake, there is one moment that stands out to him the most.
“The ACC Championship Game last year against North Carolina was definitely my favorite moment on the field so far. It was my first championship here at Clemson, and the energy that we had in that game was electric. We were performing in all areas of the game. The feeling of going out there and winning a championship in that fashion is something that I’ll always remember.”
Trotter is well aware that linebacker can be a very physically demanding position. As a result, he is extremely meticulous in his preparation each week. Clemson has many excellent resources to ensure that players keep their bodies in great shape, and Trotter makes sure to take advantage of them.
“I try to make sure I take care of my body the best I can. I’m always in the cold tub and utilizing Clemson’s facilities. I’m always at what we call ‘The CASL’ (Clemson Applied Science Lab), where the training room is. That’s where we focus on helping our bodies recover. Each game, I want to make sure that my body is fresh and ready to go.”
Mindset is another important aspect for Trotter each week. Football can often times be a mental game, so while it is imperative to prepare physically, that is not where the work stops.
“We have a one-game mentality. We focus on one opponent at a time. If we do that, there’s no doubt that we’ll finish off this season strong.”
Trotter quickly emerged as an essential part of the Tiger defense. He has consistently performed at a high level from the moment he stepped on the field at Clemson and has no plans of looking back. Even with all his success, he certainly is not one to let it get to his head.
“My family, and especially my dad, has always preached humility and the importance of it. He always makes sure that I am level-headed, but when he needs to get on me, he’ll get on me. I appreciate that from him.”
Trotter is a shining example of humility and dedication. He has embraced his family legacy and every challenge that he has faced to this point. It goes without saying that the future is exceptionally bright for #54.