‘If opportunity arises,’ Trinca-Pasat eyes NFL

By Nader Ihmoud

Louis Trinca-Pasat was once the biggest fish in a medium-sized pond, but that changed after he decided to play for the Iowa University Hawkeyes.

Trinca-Pasat had a successful career prior to moving to the Division I program. As a junior, he led Lane Tech High School in Chicago to a city championship in 2009, earning an All-State honorable mention.

Despite the defensive tackle only playing in one game last season and having one assisted tackle in his college career, he is confident in his ability to make the starting lineup for the Hawkeyes.

According to the National Football League Players Association’s website, less than 1 percent of high school seniors playing football will land a roster spot in the NFL, and only 310 of the 9,000 current collegiate players will be invited to the NFL scouting combine. But those figures do not affect the sophomore, who was redshirted as a freshman.

The 20-year-old Chicago native and sports studies major sat down with The Chronicle to discuss his success in high school and his future as a player.

Chronicle: What’s the difference between playing at the high school level and college level?

Louis Trinca-Pasat: It’s another atmosphere. It’s more intense. The college level is more serious. There’s a lot more on the line for everybody because the competition is so high that you could gain a spot or lose a spot.

The Chronicle: Do you know why you were red-shirted as a freshman?

LTP: Basically, [Iowa University Head Coach Kirk Ferentz] likes to develop young guys. I was still underweight [and] I wasn’t too strong. It takes some time, especially being a [defensive] lineman.

The Chronicle: Has the process been longer than what you expected coming out of high school?

LTP: I kind of expected it to be where it’s at right now. [It will] take one or two years until I get adjusted to how tough the competition [is], and also players and athletes develop at different rates. I felt it was going to take a little longer because I’m an undersized defensive tackle [at 6 feet 3 inches and 270 pounds].

The Chronicle: Are you ready yet?

LTP: At any point, especially this year, I have a great opportunity to play. I developed a lot. I gained a lot of strength and speed. Compared to where I was when I was a red-shirt freshman, I’ve improved a lot.

The Chronicle: Why do you have more of an opportunity to play this year?

LTP: I’m older and I know the system now [and] understand it better. The fact that the older guys moved on to wherever they went, the young guys have to step up and replace [them]. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m guaranteed anything, but the opportunity is there.

The Chronicle: Do you ever discuss your individual play with your coaches?

LTP: We meet with them if we can. We watch film. Our position coach mainly tells us what we have to do better and what we did improve, like strengths and weaknesses.

The Chronicle: In what ways have you most improved?

LTP: Strength, for sure. Just with the basic movements like bench, squat and cleans. Everything I’m lifting right now are all records for me. [They are] things I haven’t lifted, weight wise [before] in my life.

The Chronicle: Which maximum are you most proud of?

LTP: I’d have to say my squat because it was under 280 [pounds] when I went [to Iowa] and it’s at 520 [pounds] right now.

The Chronicle: Who has been your mentor on the team?

LTP: My first year [on the team] there was a defensive tackle named Karl Klug. He actually got drafted in the fifth round [in the 2011 NFL draft] and he ended up starting this year for the [Tennessee] Titans. He had a motor. He was basically the guy you wanted to follow. He did everything hard. I basically watched film of him, and try to imitate [what he does]. My body type is really similar to his. He was undersized and he was fast, so I just try to follow his technique.

The Chronicle: Do you still see yourself potentially playing in the NFL?

LTP: That’s my main goal. That’s where I want to be and where I want to play. Again, it’s [about] how hard you work. [If] the opportunity arises, then I’ll take what I can. I’m going to try to find a way to eventually make it there. Whether if it has to be through the Canadian league, playing some arena football or maybe going overseas, [I’m going to do] whatever it takes to get an opportunity.