Jeremiah Trotter Jr. is good at reading offenses, closing on ball-carriers, and making tackles.
He is not good at waiting.
Kyle McCord is good at reading defenses, avoiding rushers, and completing passes.
He is not good at waiting, either.
“It was nuts,” McCord said of the seemingly endless offseason of stops, starts, delays, detours, cancellations, and postponements for the nationally-ranked St. Joseph’s Prep football team.
All of the Hawks, who are ranked No. 6 in the country by High School Football America, are eager to finally take the field for Saturday night’s opener against Life Christian Academy of Virginia at St. Mary’s Ryken High School in Leonardstown, Md.
But for McCord, senior quarterback and Ohio State recruit, that first pass will be “a long time coming.”
And for Trotter, senior linebacker and Clemson recruit, that first tackle will be nearly a year in the making.
“Super anxious,” Trotter said of his approach to the season opener. "With all the ups and downs and going back and forth with us playing and not playing, it definitely has been tough mentally. But now that we know for sure that we are playing, the excitement is super high for me, and my teammates as well. I can’t wait.”
The offseason was challenging for fall-sport athletes across the country with so much uncertainty because of the coronavirus outbreak.
St. Joseph’s, which has won two consecutive PIAA Class 6A state titles and five state crowns in the last seven years, was supposed to begin play in late August. The Hawks are about six weeks behind schedule, and their lost days have been marked by changing guidance and logistical complications that often appeared to put the season in jeopardy.
“We’re probably been mentally tested more than many teams across the country because we’ve been going through it for weeks now,” St. Joseph’s coach Tim Roken said.
If all the players and coaches were challenged by circumstances beyond their control, Trotter and McCord might have been dealing with the toughest hands to play.
That’s because both missed significant stretches at the end of last season. They both began 2020 on a mission: To use their senior year to make up for lost time.
“There was some doubt for sure,” McCord said. "It seemed like we were jumping through a lot of hoops. That’s kind of been the theme of the whole offseason: expect the unexpected. I think we’ve done a great job of adapting and staying on task.”
Said Trotter, “Definitely there were thoughts roaming through my mind, but I just had to keep my head down, make sure I was working, make sure I was ready and our team was ready.”
Trotter suffered a broken arm last season in a Week 5 game against Roman Catholic. He missed the final nine games, serving as an unofficial assistant coach to the team’s linebackers, especially his younger brother, Josiah.
“It was tough not being out there, but I felt like I was out there helping out my team in other ways with the learning part, helping my brother out,” Trotter said.
McCord missed the final four games – the Class 6A city title clash against Northeast, plus three PIAA state tournament games – with an ankle injury. He passed for 2,399 yards and 31 touchdowns before moving to the sideline, where he helped converted wide receiver Malik Cooper adjust to quarterback and guide the Hawks to the state title.
“He saved our season,” McCord said of Cooper, a current Hawks’ senior and Temple recruit.
Roken said Trotter and McCord showed leadership during time on the sideline.
“I told both of them, ‘You can sulk about the injury or turn this into a positive and help the team,’ ” Roken said. “Both of those guys are going to be expected to be leaders when they get to the college level, and this was opportunity for them to become more of a vocal leader and become like a coach.”
Trotter is anticipating that first tackle. McCord is envisioning that first pass.
Both athletes know the best part of taking the field on Saturday night is that the long wait for the start of their senior season finally will be over.
“It makes you appreciate it a lot more considering that it might not have happened,” Trotter said.