EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald is all about discussing opportunities of playing time, not promises of it when he hits the recruiting trail.
Former Wheaton North running back Mike Trumpy was given that message like all of Fitzgerald’s recruits. Trumpy was guaranteed an opportunity to play, but he wasn’t guaranteed of anything more.
Last Saturday against Central Michigan, Fitzgerald followed through on those words and gave Trumpy his chance.
Trumpy, a 6-foot, 210-pound redshirt freshman, took full advantage of it.
With Northwestern’s other running backs struggling to consistently pick up yards and Trumpy having proven himself in practice, Fitzgerald decided to use him during the third quarter against Central Michigan. On his first handoff, he ran for 11 yards. Shortly later, he ran for another 11 yards, then eight more, then nine more.
All together, he rushed 12 times for 53 yards, numbers good enough to trump all of Northwestern’s other running backs and provide him with future opportunities.
“He just slashed and hit the hole real hard and ran through contact,” Northwestern offensive coordinator Mick McCall said. “The guys rallied around him a little bit. He’s going to get his opportunity to play a little bit. He’s been doing a good job in practice. Guys doing a good job in practice and running hard, we’re going to give them opportunities.”
That’s all Trumpy has ever asked for. He knew coming into Northwestern that he would be in the same recruiting class as Arby Fields, a highly-rated California running back, and that the Wildcats already had running backs Jacob Schmidt and Stephen Simmons in the mix.
“They’re going to bring in guys every single year,” Trumpy said. “[Running backs coach Matt MacPherson] tells us, ‘It’s our job to find someone who’s better than you.’ No matter who comes in, you’re going to have to work hard and beat them out no matter what.”
With that competitive mentality, Trumpy is Fitzgerald’s ideal player.
“We’re going to play the best 11 players every single rep,” Fitzgerald said. “The great thing about football and college football is we’re bringing in new talent every year to compete with the guys here. If you don’t want to compete, don’t come here. Don’t waste your time. I’m not catering to any guy. I’m not kissing anybody’s behind. I’m not giving anybody a promise. All I’m guaranteeing them is an opportunity and then you have to come in and compete.
“If I want to bring in five quarterbacks in a class, I’ll bring in five quarterbacks. It may sound simple and condescending, but if you don’t want to compete, this is the wrong program to come to.”
For Trumpy, it’s the right one.