Notre Dame's Andrew Trumbetti impresses with motor, mettle

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Andrew Trumbetti was dazed, sore and unsure of just what happened to him.

And, no, this wasn’t an everyday occurrence and simply a matter of the normal overwhelm of being an integral part of the Notre Dame defensive line as a true freshman.

Midway through first quarter of Notre Dame’s 31-0 razing of Michigan on Sept. 6, Wolverine tight end Khalid Hill lowered his shoulder, led with his helmet and gave Trumbetti his “welcome to college” moment, whiplash and a little amnesia on a short pass play from Devin Gardner to Dennis Norfleet.

“I don’t remember it all that well,” the 6-foot-4, 251-pound semi-prodigy said more than 10 days after the fact. “Someone had to tell me where the sideline was.”

Other than during last week’s 30-14 win over Purdue, Trumbetti doesn’t tend to spend much time there. And he was only on the sidelines against the Boilermakers because of doctor’s orders.

On Saturday night, he hopes to be back in his tag-team role with junior Romeo Okwara at defensive end when No. 9 Notre Dame (3-0) takes on Syracuse (2-1) 20 minutes from Trumbetti’s parents’ house in Demarest, N.J.

The Orange moved their home game with ND to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. both this Saturday and another meeting scheduled for Oct. 1, 2016 as well.

“It’s every kid’s dream in New Jersey to play in that stadium,” Trumbetti said.

Yet he hasn’t ever actually been inside the facility that is home to both the NFL’s New York Jets and New York Giants.

“I’m a Packers fan,” he puffed.

Who grew up wanting to be a quarterback. And still kind of does.

“I think I can throw it as far as Everett Golson,” Trumbetti said of ND’s starting quarterback and burgeoning Heisman Trophy candidate. “I probably can’t throw it as hard as he does.

“But if coach (Brian) Kelly wants to throw me in there, I’d be more than willing to do that. But I mean, it’s his team, his decision.”

Trumbetti’s coach at Northern Valley Regional High, Tony Mottola, actually did play Trumbetti some at quarterback — and at running back and wide receiver.

“Returned punts and kicks too,” said Trumbetti one of two early enrollees in this freshman class and one of 31 since former ND head coach Charlie Weis unlocked that door in 2006.

The early start, Trumbetti said, helped get him on the field this fall at ND’s preferred college position for him. That and his relentless motor and mettle.

“I just think that’s something you’re born with,” said Trumbetti, one of eight true freshmen who have seen action for the nation’s No. 4 scoring defense.

“I know I’m not physically gifted, like some other people. I have to make up for that some other way, and I feel like what sets me apart from everybody else is that I have a high motor and I’m tough and I’m never going to give up.”

He actually came back into the Michigan game after receiving medical clearance but struggled mentally and physically, yet still managed four tackles.

That led the medical staff to scratch him from Purdue, a game in which Okwara amassed a career-high 11 tackles while largely going solo.

“It was probably the first game I missed in my life, so it was really tough,” he said.

But pain has been relatively scant in his time at ND so far overall. His biggest complaints are with a Calculus class, the quality of the sandwich shops in town and getting a speeding ticket over the summer.

“Worst part,” he tweeted on his Twitter account, “was the cop wrote I was 220 pounds. #HittingTheGym #Salty”

Actually Trumbetti would someday like to get up to 260, less than 10 pounds more than his current weight.

“I’m a weakside defensive end, so I don’t have to be 290 pounds,” he said. “I’m still a freshman and yes, I have a lot of muscle and all that stuff to put on. I still feel like I have a ways to go. But I’m not intimidated. You just have to come with the mind-set that you belong here.”

Notre Dame's Andrew Trumbetti has been a factor on the defensive line early in his first season.SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN