By Brian Hamilton
Consider it a leap of faith or, perhaps, too good of an opportunity on which to pass. Either way, Trendon Amuzie figures the best way to tackle a new challenge is head-on.
That's why the 2009 Nevada Union High School graduate is about to head east to Greenville, Ill. and join a football team in a college community that he's never seen.
Well, at least, not in person.
“I've seen pictures on Google,” said Amuzie, a two-year starter on the NU offensive line. “It looks nice. And I'm not worried about the climate and all that. I know that it's going to be cold in the winter and humid in the summer.
“My family didn't really have enough money for college, so I'm just excited that I'm going to college and get to play college football.”
Through his partial scholarship, a grant and a student loan, Amuzie will be responsible for just about $425 per year of Greenville College's nearly $30,000 annual tuition.
Greenville, Ill. is a long way from the “rough neighborhood” where he spent some time as youngster in Hawaii before eventually landing in Grass Valley.
“It was hard, but you've got to see past that,” said Amuzie, who was living in Hawaii with his mom, her boyfriend, his brother, Amani and sister, Sable. “My mom wasn't always around to take care of us, so I think that actually helped me mature and start thinking past high school.”
Upon returning to California and living in the Oakland area, Amuzie's aunt, Tonja Rider, eventually was granted custody and guardianship of the children and moved them back to Grass Valley area where Trendon had previously attended Scotten and Bell Hill elementary schools.
It was then, during his freshman year at Nevada Union, that he was first introduced to organized football.
“At first, it just gave me something to do. It gave me good reasons to work hard at school,” he said. “But you know, now looking back, it's kind of amazing.
“Ever since I was a freshman, I looked up to (former Miners) Andrew Jackson, Taylor Dever and those guys. I wanted to play college ball like those guys."
The 6-foot, 5-inch, 295-pound Jackson is now a third-year starter for Fresno State's offensive line, while Dever (6-5, 308) is entering his junior year as an O-lineman at the University of Notre Dame.
Amuzie played a large role in helping return Nevada Union's program to prominence last fall, after one of the toughest seasons in recent school history the year before. NU went 4-6 in 2007. A year later, the Miners finished 10-2.
Although Amuzie was considered “undersized” as a lineman recruit by top college programs across the country, the 5-foot, 11-inch 245-pound freshman expects to fit right in with the Greenville College Panthers, a Division III program.
And he points to his high school coach Dave Humphers as a huge reason he found that fit.
Each year, Humphers extends a hand to Nevada Union athletes in all sports by assisting in recruiting efforts. Humphers helps athletes put together a resume and highlight videos to be sent across the country in hopes of helping Miners land scholarship offers or simply opportunities to compete in college.
“That guy is an amazing guy,” Amuzie said. “I don't know how he does it. Besides those big guys, (Humphers) takes those little players like me and turns them into linemen.
“I really didn't think, or I guess I really didn't know, that I'd have an opportunity to play in college. I mean, there are a lot of kids bigger than me out there that would be more valuable to college (teams).”
Throughout the summer Amuzie has been working hard to make himself more valuable to the Panthers for which he'll play this fall. Just as he did as a Miner, Amuzie has been hitting the gym at 5:45 a.m. each day with many of his former Nevada Union teammates.
His work ethic, he said, is another benefit of having played for Humphers.
“During my junior year, I was struggling with my confidence,” Amuzie said. “I remember (former NU defensive lineman) Matt Schaake was just killing me every practice. I was having trouble snapping the ball and really just broke down.
“(Humphers) said I was better than that. He told me that everybody makes mistakes, but it's how you work through them. I just learned that the harder you work, the better you'll be.”
Humphers said it was Amuzie's hard work and positive attitude that earned him the opportunity he now has in his hands.
“This certainly is a living situation in which relative few young people succeed the way Trendon has,” Humphers said. “He is a wonderful young man, persistent as well as polite and helpful. I really like him, and am really happy for him.”
Amuzie said he plans on studying either sociology or law enforcement at Greenville, a four-year Christian college offering a liberal arts education to about 1,600 students each year.
“I like people,” he said. “And I always want to understand why people do things, like why would a person choose drugs over their family. Things like that just don't click to me.
“So I'd like to study sociology or maybe criminal justice, eventually becoming a police officer or joining the FBI.”
For now, though, he'll spend the next few weeks getting familiar with his new home in the Midwest. He'll be heading east on Aug. 4 in order to be ready for the first football practice on Aug. 11. He said he's already met his roommate, Tyler Barker, a fellow football recruit out of Lancaster in the Bay Area.
But, he added, they've not yet met in person.
“We met online,” Amuzie said. “He seems nice, but I tend to make friends easy, anyway.”
Amuzie also added that his college career still seems somewhat far-fetched and won't likely hit home until he's actually on the road. He recently got a driver's license for the first time, in order to help his aunt with the driving.
“I don't have too many words to say about it,” he said. “We'll see where God takes me and wherever he puts me in terms of my career. At least I know where I'm going, which is the scary part about high school. At the time, you just don't know.
“To me, it's still all a dream. I can't believe it, yet ... I don't think I'll believe it until I get in that car and we start driving across Nevada.”