- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Myra Trotter died on a Thursday. He was buried two days later, on Saturday. On Sunday, his son, Jeremiah Trotter, caught a plane to Philadelphia for his first minicamp as an NFL rookie.
"Oh my goodness," Trotter recalled last week. "My first introduction, new position, I lose my dad right before camp. A lot of people who didn't know me didn't know what I went through my rookie year getting behind, not playing much. I really lost my desire to play."
The desire to play. Passion. It's what defines the Washington Redskins' new star linebacker, far more than his fast and powerful 6-foot-1, 261-pound frame. A seven-year, $35.5 million contract last month brought more than Trotter's talent to Washington it landed his dedication to working hard, getting better and inspiring others.
"It all comes back to a passion, man," Trotter said.
But that passion dissipated in the spring of 1998, just after concerns about his knee dropped him into the third round of the NFL Draft. Myra's death crippled his son emotionally in a way life never hurt him physically not when his knee blew out in his sophomore year of college or when a chainsaw mangled his hand in high school.
"This wasn't a regular dad," Trotter said. "This was somebody I grew up working beside every day. I always prided myself on being emotionally tough. Nothing could break me. And I think that was God letting me know, 'If I'm going to break you, I can break you.'"

Peripheral vision
Myra lives on as inspiration. His personality became Trotter's personality, and that passion turned one of the fastest and strongest players at the 1998 NFL Scouting Combine, a raw junior out of Stephen F. Austin, into the standout who might give Washington the NFL's best linebacking corps.
"He wants to be the best," said Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, who developed Baltimore Ravens star middle linebacker Ray Lewis. "He's been a starter in the NFL, played at a very high intensity on a great team and a great defense, and so he's able to bring that here and bring his leadership to us. That's what's exceptional."
Passion, as it often does with great men, leads Trotter to do things most people would consider weird. Driving down the highway, for example, he tries to read license plates and road signs without moving his head training his eyes to scan peripherally so that he can see offensive sets without losing focus on the quarterback.
"When you're on the field you don't want to be looking all around and somebody snaps the ball on you," Trotter said. "I just try to see everything."
Teammates see and appreciate his dedication.
"You look at all the great ones you've got to have the passion for the game," linebacker Jessie Armstead said. "If you've got love for something, you're always going to try to get better. Even if you're walking through the grocery store, maybe you put that move on a cart. He's got that kind of passion. It's just the little things he tries to get better."

'The good old days'
Trotter's studies began back in tiny Hooks, Texas, a country town in the northeast corner of the state not far from Arkansas. He would grab control of the television from his siblings whenever football came on, often staying up past midnight to see the end of "Monday Night Football."
"I never did watch defense," Trotter said. "I always watched offense, trying to see if I could pick out the play before they even ran it. That's how I study film now. I try to figure out what the play is going to be by the formation or backfield sets."
Myra didn't let Trotter play football until high school, keeping his son too busy cutting wood and at church. Although "Pops" ultimately relented, he never saw his son play.
"Now he's got the best seat in the house," Trotter said with a smile.
Games simply weren't a priority for Myra, who cut wood for a living until shortly before he died at age 75. People would hire Myra to remove trees from their property; he would do so, then cut the trees into firewood and sell it. Trotter remembers working in 105-degree heat, grabbing an ax after stepping off the school bus and coming home from football practice at night and having to split wood under the security light.
"It was hard, but those were the good old days," Trotter said. "If I had to do it all over again, I'd do it in a heartbeat."
The wood-chopping gave Trotter a high tolerance for hard work, an appreciation for every penny and a physique that leaves some teammates in awe.
"I didn't know he was that big," linebacker LaVar Arrington said. "Now I understand why he's such a good run-stopper."
Myra's mentoring, meanwhile, rounded out his son's personality.
"If I can just be half the man he was," Trotter said. "We never had much, but I was always brought up that character and your word mean more than anything."

Ignoring injuries
Myra told his son to grip the chainsaw tightly that day. But it hit another log while Trotter was operating it, popped back and sliced his hand.
"I was sitting there looking at it, blood gushing out, and all I could think about was, 'My daddy won't let me play this year,'" Trotter recalled.
Actually, his coach wouldn't let him play until he got his hand stitched up. Another time, Trotter's college coach had to hide his helmet so he wouldn't return to a game following a concussion. And when Trotter blew his knee out with two games left in his sophomore season, he cried as the bus pulled away.
Trotter rehabilitated that torn ACL in just six months and returned for an impressive junior season. Although a sharp combine later led to projections of a first- or second-round selection, the reason for exiting college as a junior was to provide for his family. Myra couldn't work anymore.
"I took it upon myself because it's not often that guys get an opportunity to take care of their families in this way," Trotter said. "I talked to my dad about it before I made my decision. I already pretty much had my mind made up, but I still wanted to talk to him. He said, 'Just do whatever you think is best for you.'"
But the high pick never happened. Many teams failed Trotter on his physical, believing the knee hadn't fully healed. The Philadelphia Eagles, coached at the time by Ray Rhodes, investigated the injury and decided to take a chance.
"The doctor said he can play 10 years, or he can play one year," Trotter said. "I'm in my fifth year. It looks like I might hit that 10."
Trotter dismisses the idea that his knee is still a concern, saying he actually has had more problems with his other knee.
"Medically it's loose," he said. "Physically, spiritually, it's 120 percent."
Lewis won't reveal what the Ravens felt about Trotter back in 1998 but believes the linebacker now is worth the chance.
"He's been playing on the knee," Lewis said. "Enough said."

Frustrated to franchise
Trotter's knee held up as a rookie, but his spirits didn't. Myra's death, the adjustment from outside to middle linebacker and the naturally difficult jump to the NFL left him behind. Some in the Eagles organization believed he wasn't picking up the system. He played eight games that year and recorded just four tackles and seven special teams tackles.
"[Myras death] was tough on him," agent Jimmy Sexton said. "His father had been so important to him. He learned his work ethic, his no-nonsense attitude from the way he was raised. I'm not sure how ready he was [for the NFL] that whole summer."
The Eagles overhauled at the end of that season. New coach Andy Reid cut middle linebacker James Willis and drafted Barry Gardner in the second round. Trotter beat out Gardner and then dominated the league, recording 202 tackles (the second-highest total in Eagles history) and establishing himself as a rising star.
During the next two seasons, Philadelphia and Trotter joined the NFL's elite. It was expected to be a formidable pair for years, but Trotter rejected an early offer from the Eagles, whose policy is to lock up stars before free agency (giving them the security of upfront money) for slightly below market value.
From there, it got ugly. Philadelphia put the franchise tag on Trotter to restrict his movement, hoping that the sides could work out a long-term deal. But there was never much negotiating, only perceived slights and bad feelings. The Eagles eventually released him from the tag when they felt like it was too difficult to sign or trade him and that his situation was creating a distraction.
"I played for that team four years of my life," Trotter said. "I laid it on the line every weekend. I did the little things to help that team get better. But you can't control what other people do. You can only control how you react to those things."

'Tip of the iceberg'
In Trotter's mind there is no debate about the game's top middle linebacker. Lewis' Super Bowl ring and elite honors seal Trotter's opinion that his friend is No. 1.
But this season Trotter seems to have a better supporting cast than Lewis, whose Ravens defense has been dismantled. And Trotter, like Lewis, is just the person to raise a unit's play to pre-eminence. Some veterans shy from the leadership role when changing teams but not Trotter.
"If you're a leader, you're a leader," Trotter said. "I'm not afraid to come in and be a leader."
Leadership by Trotter begins by calling signals as the middle linebacker and extends to his play on the field and his willingness to urge teammates vocally. It also includes wind sprints after practice.
"He stayed late the other day, ran some extra gassers," Armstead said. "He didn't have to run those extra gassers, but he was out there running. That shows me a lot. You can't just talk. You've got to prove it to your teammates, that you go over and beyond the call of duty."
When Trotter came in from those wind sprints, his jersey was soaked through with sweat. He barely acknowledged anyone as he walked to the locker room, staring straight ahead once again consumed by passion.
"Even though I've been to two Pro Bowls, this is only the beginning," Trotter said. "I think my first four years with the Eagles were just the tip of the iceberg. I know that without a doubt. I'm in a great situation. I'm excited, and I'm ready to come down here and help this team win a championship."


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