Good decision helped Notre Dame DE Trumbetti

Bob Wieneke
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — When Andrew Trumbetti asked his high school coach about his decision to enroll for the spring semester at Notre Dame, bypassing the final semester of his senior year to get a jumpstart on college, Tony Mottola admits he wasn’t entirely sold.

Mottola, the head coach at Northern Valley Regional High in Demarest, N.J., had concerns about how Trumbetti, who he describes as a quiet kid, would adapt to a big setting.

Twelfth-grade physics is a bit different than a science class at Notre Dame, Mottola pointed out. And, Mottola, admitted, he was sorry to let go of a guy who had become an extended family member.

Months later, Mottola has a different outlook.

“In hindsight it was not a good move,” Mottola said. “It was a great move.”

Last week, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly announced that Trumbetti has moved into the starting lineup, where he leapfrogged junior Romeo Okwara, at the weakside defensive end spot.

“He’s really separated himself and sometimes I don’t talk about him enough because I sometimes forget he’s a freshman,” Kelly said. “He’s a starter for us right now.”

The 6-foot-4, 251-pound Trumbetti earned the job, but it won’t be a traditional starting job where he’s on the field every single snap. Notre Dame’s front seven under new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder could involve a revolving door of sorts based on down and distance, and game situation.

“You’re gonna need a scorecard,” Kelly said recently

Trumbetti’s rise took on further importance last week when the school announced an investigation into academic misconduct that includes four football players. One of the players in question is senior defensive end Ishaq Williams. Williams remains on the team but is unable to practice and compete in games, meaning the Irish line immediately got younger.

Sophomore Isaac Rochell worked at Williams’ spot during the media viewing portion of last Saturday’s practice with Trumbetti lining up at the weak side.

“We think that he’s got a huge upside for us in so many areas that sometimes I don’t talk about him enough,” Kelly said of Trumbetti. “Great motor. Plays physical. Smart. Does all the things we ask him to do.”

What Mottola and his staff asked Trumbetti to do as a freshman at Northern Valley Regional was come in and adapt to the high school game. They spotted a player who was not only big, but also could run, so they moved him to varsity. That allowed Mottola to use him at defensive end, outside linebacker, tight end and offensive tackle.

“He wasn’t just a big body. He was a big body that could move,” Mottola said. “He’s phenomenal in space, and we could put him anywhere we wanted and he would have been successful.”

Mottola sees a guy who can be successful off the field as well. The coach pointed out how Trumbetti serves as a role model/big brother to Mottola’s 7-year-old son. He recalls the text messages Trumbetti sends Mottola’s wife on Mother’s Day. Status reports on how he was doing in camp would arrive via text message. Late last week one arrived with the news about starting.

“I even texted him back, I said, ‘I’ve got goosebumps. I feel like a proud papa right now,’” Mottola said. “He’s got a lot of God-given ability and won the genetic lottery and he’s taken full advantage of that.”

A day after Kelly lauded Trumbetti’s attributes, Mottola echoed them, offering that his former pupil winning a job is no shock.

“His goal was to go there and just not be a part of the team but contribute and contribute early and he just works hard all the time. He’s got a great motor and a great knowledge of the game,” Mottola said. “Am I surprised? I’m not. I’m not surprised.”

BWieneke@SBTinfo.com | 574-235-6428 | Twitter: @BWienekeNDI

Freshman Andrew Trumbetti is poised to make an impact along Notre Dame's defensive line. (SBT File Photo)