CLEMSON — Jeremiah Trotter Jr. has three high school championship rings.
But he’s only played in one championship game.
The linebacker out of St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia made 12 tackles in the 2018 PIAA Class 6A title game. But he watched the Hawks win two consecutive state titles from the sidelines in his final two seasons. In 2019, he missed nine games with a broken arm. And in his senior season, he missed the finale after an injury in the semifinals.
Being forced to watch his team play without him taught Trotter how to be a leader off the field, how to be a supportive teammate and helpful coach from the sidelines. The lessons will carry over with him at Clemson, where he’s already enrolled as a freshman and practicing with the Tigers this spring.
“He definitely came back with just more of an appreciation,” said Tim Roken, Trotter’s coach at St. Joseph’s. “Because he loves the game as much as he does, to have it taken away from you, especially at that age, it’s very impactful.
“He came back at a different level this past year. He made the most of the opportunities he got and made a major impact on our program.”
Trotter got his first taste of Clemson the summer before his junior year of high school. Attending camp at Clemson in June of 2019, he was able to meet with head coach Dabo Swinney and defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
He left the camp with an offer in hand, but he spent more time in the area later that month with St. Joseph’s. Roken takes his program on a community service trip each summer, helping communities while spending time at places such as Virginia Tech, Penn State and Alabama.
The trip is part football, part community service as Roken’s players stay in dorms and check out the college experience. At Clemson in 2019, the group worked with kids at the Littlejohn Community Center and helped with some landscaping.
Trotter’s time at Clemson helped him feel comfortable about his decision. Rated as a four-star prospect by 247sports.com, he announced his commitment to the Tigers on Sept. 7, 2019.
“Playing IMG [Academy] a couple years ago, and he was a sophomore, they told us he was the best linebacker they’d ever seen at that time,” Roken said. “He’s just like, his instincts are different. … His instincts are usually pretty spot on. Sometimes it’s almost like he knew the play was coming. And then he’s just very physical at the point of attack.”
Trotter is the son of former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker and four-time Pro Bowler, Jeremiah Trotter.
Having a two-time All-Pro as a father could be a lot for a rising star, but Trotter is unfazed. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound linebacker is comfortable making his own path while appreciating everything his father’s given him, including a vast knowledge of football.
Roken sees Trotter as an all-around defender. He played linebacker in high school, but Roken said Trotter could play anywhere on the field, likening him to recent Clemson graduate and now Arizona Cardinal, Isaiah Simmons.
As a Tiger, Simmons saw snaps at linebacker, defensive end and safety.
“He’s a very special athlete,” Roken said of Trotter. “Like he could play corner if he wanted to. He could play defensive end. He could make an impact wherever he was on the field. And I think he’s more of the modern day linebacker. He’s kind of lean, but he’s very quick. He’s got great instincts. And he can run you down, and he’s physical on contact.
“He’s athletic enough to be able to play in the box and use those great instincts and shoot the gap. Or he can play in space on the outside and man up against a receiver because of his athleticism.”
Trotter is one of 12 early enrollees at Clemson this spring, and he’s already earned a nickname. Venables called him a “quiet assassin” on signing day, alluding to the linebackers silent but vicious demeanor on the field.
Clemson’s lone linebacker in the 2021 class might not be the loudest, most vocal player. But his maturation as a leader after not playing in two consecutive state title games will serve the Tigers well.
“He just grinds,” Roken said.