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The ascension of a star

photo
[Times photo: Brian Tietz]

Since the age of 7, Clayton Trenary has been a dominating force on offense, defense and special teams.

By CAREY FREEMAN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 30, 2001


CRYSTAL RIVER -- Call it an omen. Call it father's intuition. Call it wishful thinking.

Call it anything you want, but know this: Bo Trenary swears he saw something great in his oldest son, Clayton, at a time when most parents are happy just to see their child walking.

"He was just off and running as soon as he learned to walk," Bo Trenary said. "When he was a year old, he was driving a remote-control motorcycle around. When he was 2 years old, I took the training wheels off his bike and he was able to ride right away.

"Heck, he was riding a skateboard at 3."

Throwing a football wasn't far behind.

The signs told Bo Trenary that Clayton would be special, and it didn't take long for his son to prove it. From the first levels of competition in football and baseball, Clayton Trenary was a star.

Things haven't changed much in the last decade.

Trenary has always been the guy everybody wants on their team. He's also the guy nobody wants to go up against. He's a player who can dominate on offense and defense, return kickoffs and punts for scores, and still manage a 40-yard punting average.

"When the spring (college) recruiters ask me who the major prospect is in this area, I've said it was him without a doubt," said Central coach Steve Crognale, the only district and conference coach to defeat a Trenary-led Pirates team. "The best player in this area? He's definitely it.

"I saw the playoff game against Jesuit (a 14-0 loss last season) ... and I don't think Crystal River would have been in the game without him."

Even in the loss, Trenary was the best player on the field. Against playoff competition, he compiled 154 yards of total offense (116 passing, 38 rushing) and a team-leading 15 tackles. He also punted and returned punts and kickoffs.

In other words, he never left the field.

Such performances have become typical for Trenary since his freshman season in 1998.

"I just like making big plays," Trenary said. "I really don't have a preference. A big play on defense, a big tackle, a big play on offense or a good scramble. ... It's all about the same to me."

THE BEGINNINGS OF A LEGEND

There is a fine line between confidence and cockiness. Trenary has walked that line since the first time he stepped on a football field.

Trenary became aware of his abilities at age 6, his first year playing flag football for the Crystal River Sharks.

"In flag, I used to just run all over the place," Trenary said. "I have stat sheets from flag and I'd have like 1,000 yards of offense for the whole season while other kids had 50 or something like that."

The stats don't lie.

In 1991, a 7-year-old Trenary amassed a league-leading 1,154 yards of total offense and led the league with 127 points scored.

Those stats would only improve during the next seven years of Pop Warner competition as Trenary's role increased under the coaching of his father.

"Pee Wee (ages 10-12) was when I actually took over his team, and we totally expanded the playbook then," Bo Trenary said. "They used to run the power-I, but we were probably running five formations and about 30 plays."

That might not seem unusual until one realizes Trenary was only 10 years old. By the time he was 12, he was running a wide-open, pro-style offense that required him to pass more than 30 times a game.

"It would all depend on who we were playing," Bo Trenary said. "Because, if we knew we were playing someone tough, we had to put him in as a main blocker to open holes. We put him where he was needed to help the team the most. We didn't just pitch him the ball and let him run for it."

Trenary's success wasn't just limited to football. In baseball, he could be just as dominant. In a 1996 Little League district final against Dunnellon, the 12-year-old struck out 13 of the 18 batters he faced in a 4-1 victory.

"Clayton is the kind of kid that every sport he touches just turns to gold," said Valerie Trenary, Clayton's mother.

MAKING IT HAPPEN

Freshman starters are a rarity at Crystal River, but Trenary has always been one to break the mold, becoming a starter at cornerback midway through his first season.

By the ninth game, the freshman was thrust into the spotlight against Hernando when starting quarterback Brian Hinote quit the team. Trenary took over by default and led Crystal River to wins against Hernando and Lecanto before helping the Pirates defeat Central 27-9 in the first round of the playoffs.

His first varsity season came to an end in the next round after a 20-7 loss to Gainesville Eastside.

"I felt so bad after that because all the guys on that team were seniors," Trenary said. "I was getting hit every play and I had no clue. If I had the ability I have now, I think we would have done a lot better."

Trenary and the Pirates posted similar results the next season behind the bruising rushing of Nate Madison and Trenary's improved play on offense and defense.

Last season was the breakout year. In leading the Pirates to a 10-2 record and third-consecutive trip to the second round of the playoffs, Trenary posted his best numbers ever, catching the attention of dozens of college scouts.

Trenary also established himself as someone willing to do anything to earn a Crystal River victory. He returned kicks and punts in crucial situations, and returned one kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown in a loss to Belleview -- a game in which he also returned a fumble 95 yards for a score.

"He's a good athlete," Crystal River coach Jere DeFoor said. "He can make something happen whenever you put him in."

THE LEGEND CONTINUES

Trenary has a lot riding on this season.

It's not just the thought of going deeper into the playoffs or making a run at a state title. There also are the college scouts, who will be paying closer attention than ever.

"I want to win the district and conference titles first," Trenary said. "But I'd love to win state. I think we can do it. If any year is the year, this is it."

An impressive performance could mean the difference between receiving a scholarship from a major Division I school or somewhere smaller. Trenary has said he has no preference, other than wanting to stay not too far from home.

Most observers think he will have the most impact at defensive back, where he presents a double threat -- pass coverage and run support -- similar to Buccaneers safety John Lynch.

"He lets people know there are 11 guys out there," DeFoor said. "A lot of times people look at secondary players and think, 'he just plays pass.' But Clayton's not like that. We can play the defense a little different with a safety who can fill versus one that just covers."

Trenary hasn't stopped trying to get better. He says summer camps helped his coverage skills and his 40-yard dash time has improved by at least a tenth of a second from last season.

Despite the importance of this season, Trenary said he isn't looking too far ahead. South Sumter needs to be dealt with in the season opener before he worries about where he'll be next fall.

"I'll let my dad worry about that," he said. "I try to worry about what's happening today."

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