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July 6, 2011
Eighth-grader hangs with high school elite
DALLAS - A dozen of the best high school 7-on-7 travel teams competed for the New Level/BadgerSport national championship tournament last weekend at SMU, but there was one particular matchup everyone wanted to see: Southern California squads Team 1925 and Team B2G, and the two dozen Division I prospects between them.
But part of that game's starting lineup did not quite look as if he belonged among the future college talent. Lining up alongside these seemingly grown men was a baby-faced, a 6-foot, 155-pound 14-year-old named Trenton Irwin. The opposing team, as well as most observers, paid him little attention.
At least, not heading into the game.
But on the first play of the game, Irwin made a move at the line and ran a deep go route. Team B2G quarterback Marc Evans hit him in stride for a touchdown. The defensive backs weren't quite sure what to make of the kid.
Did he really just score a 40-yard touchdown on the first snap of the contest?
Irwin is used to those looks by now. After all, he is just a kid. However, nobody realizes just how young he is. This past fall, Irwin suited up for the Santa Clarita Indians of the Pacific Youth Football League. He did so because he was not yet in high school.
"It's definitely different being out here and being so much younger than everybody else," said Irwin, who will be a freshman this fall at Newhall (Calif.) Hall. "These are guys who have already committed to play for colleges and I haven't even taken a class in high school yet."
While Irwin's prowess on the field surprises most of his opponents, not all of them overlooked the young kid lined up on the outside.
"I know who he is," Team 1925 cornerback and Rivals100 prospect Ishmael Adams said. "We've played against (B2G) enough times and seen what he can do enough times that we all know who he is. He's good - he's real good. It's not just some kid that they brought along for the show of it. He's one of their best receivers. He's good."
"He catches 1,500 balls a lot of weekends," his father, Craig Irwin, said. "We take him out to work with..quarterback gurus in L.A. He catches balls from all those quarterbacks that work out with those guys. He gets to work out for free with them. It's a good deal for him.
"He was telling me that, going against (Shepard), he used three moves in the first three plays and then was like, 'I've got nothing left. I don't know what else to do to get open.' He still has to work on things like that but, I can tell you one thing, he's not going to drop any balls. We've got that part down."
With most other players in the tournament trying to decide which college to attend, Irwin has also recently been faced with a decision about his future school: What high school to attend.
"We've been looking at a bunch of different (high) schools," Craig Irwin said. "We really have been looking at all the options. He was looking at going to St. Bonaventure to play with Marc (Evans). We also looked at Oaks Christian and some others as well.
"He decided he wanted to play at Hart (in Newhall, Calif.) though. We really did it to play with the same quarterback. He has a really good QB on his youth team that is going to be one of the better players in California and he had already decided to go to Hart. … Trenton is actually going to be the first freshman to start on varsity there."
His B2G team did not win the tournament, as Irwin was forced to watch rival Team 1925 take the crown. However, he sees playing against elite competition that is at least three years older as a great experience.
"How many other guys my age can say they have played with and against players like this?" he asked. "I've read about these guys for years and I'm playing on the same team with a lot of them. A guy like Tee Shepard, he's going to Notre Dame and I'm lining up against him. I'm basically just an eighth-grader still."
Though Irwin's skills on the field belie his age, he still shows flashes of being a kid. Asked about his height and weight, he is embarrassed to admit that he is actually a bit lighter than the advertised 160 pounds. He sees many big and strong opponents, and realizes he is not there yet.
"It's actually around 150 or 155," he admitted. "I'm skinny, I know. I need to put on some weight."
Last January, Irwin was named the offensive MVP of the Eastbay Youth All-American Bowl in conjunction with the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio. He wants to follow in the footsteps of fellow tournament participants Shepard, Shaq Thompson and Deontay Greenberry.
"That would be awesome, to play in the Army game like those guys," Irwin said. "I've gotten to see it in person and there are all kinds of big-name guys there. I would love to be one of those guys someday."
Of course for Irwin, he'll have to wait until January 2015 for that "someday" to become reality.