Sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than good! It’s a saying that usually happens when an off-balance jumper goes in on the basketball court or a volleyball serve hits a net and falls for a point. But for me, it happened at the University of Sioux Falls last week.
I was at football practice at Bob Young Field getting some interviews before USF’s first playoff game when suddenly, a very tall and very familiar looking man walks into practice smiling and laughing with some of the players. It’s hard not to notice the 6’7” frame of former USF offensive lineman Trey Pipkins, but even I couldn’t believe he was in Sioux Falls! Two days earlier, he was playing on Monday Night Football for the Los Angeles Chargers against the Kansas City Chiefs in Mexico City. Now, he was at his alma mater, shooting the breeze with former teammates and looking relaxed.
It was the Chargers’ bye week and he wanted to come back to where he starred and wish his guys luck for the postseason. Pipkins also attended USF’s playoff game on November 21 as they fell to Colorado School of Mines in the Rocky Mountain State. But regardless of the result, the love Trey Pipkins has for where he came from was evident.
Trey was kind enough to talk to me for a couple of minutes last week about his life in the NFL. Questions and answers have been lightly edited for context and clarity.
Q (David): We haven’t talked since you’ve been drafted. I know you probably heard projections from different people, from your agent, from family members, etc. You get picked at the end of the 3rd round by the Los Angeles Chargers, what was that experience like?
A (Trey): It was an unbelievable experience! You can’t really put words into it just because it’s a once in a lifetime thing. You’re just sitting there waiting. You’re waiting and waiting to see which projection is going to be right and it was a crazy feeling when I got that call!
Q:You obviously have a bit of a whirlwind. You have to get out to LA, go through spring ball and all that stuff. What was it like getting acclimated to LA even before the start of training camp?
A: I mean, it was good. I mean, they have people there, guys there to help you out. They made it really easy, an easy transition for me. So I’ve been able to focus on football, so it’s been good.
Q: You experienced college fall camp. What’s the difference between a college fall camp and a pro fall camp?
A: (Laughs) I mean, it’s the same concept, it’s just a little more physical and a little more demanding at the next level. I mean, it’s just all day, every day, morning ‘til night type of thing. It was a lot of fun though, it was a lot of bonding time with the guys, so it’s good.
Q: Be honest, had anyone from the Chargers ever heard of the University of Sioux Falls?
A: I mean, the coaches that were scouting me! (Laughs) No, there was not a lot of people that have heard about it. Easton (Stick) heard about it obviously, he’s from Omaha, went to NDSU. So, there’s some people from the Midwest who’ve heard of it, but not a lot.
Q: People know the big names: Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon. And now, you’re an integral part of making sure those guys are successful. What was it like meeting those guys you’ve been watching the past couple of years?
A: It’s really cool! It’s just a cool opportunity to be able to play with guys like that, guys who have been around and been so successful in the league. It’s an awesome opportunity to pick their brain and figure out what made them so successful.
Q: You’re protecting the blind side of Philip Rivers…
Q: He’s a future Hall of Fame quarterback, did you ever imagine that would be possible?
A: I mean, that’s just a dream! That’s a dream every little kid has, it’s unbelievable that it came true.
Q: What’s he been like as a mentor? I know you spend a lot of time with your fellow linemen, but you’ve got to pick his brain as well.
A: He’s one of the smartest people I’ve met. How much he knows about the game and how much he can pick up in-game about blitzes and pressures and things like that is just unbelievable. It’s been crazy to witness him do that and get to see what kind of tells and stuff he picks up on, it’s really cool.
Q: As any team goes through the season, you get injuries. You got your first start on Monday night (November 18 vs. Kansas City Chiefs in Mexico City), what was that whole experience like for you?
A: I mean, it’s cool. That’s another dream come true, just kind of checking them off. It’s really cool to get an opportunity to start on Monday Night Football like that, that’s huge. I went out there, played my game and it was a lot of fun.
Q: You’re used to a college program that’s winning all the time. You guys (Los Angeles Chargers) have had an up and down season, all of your losses are by seven or less. I’m sure that eats at you, but what have the ups and downs been like as a rookie?
A: It’s tough just trying to get into a rhythm with the ups and downs. But you’ve just got to come to work every day and keep grinding and keep going to work. It’s just what you do every day that matters, it’s all the little things you do every day, so you’ve just got to keep doing them.
Q: What’s it like coming back here (University of Sioux Falls)? Why’d you decide to come back?
A: I mean, I missed my guys! I hadn’t seen my guys in a long time and so I just decided to come back, catch up and check on them and catch a game. These are some of the guys I went through this whole process with, so it’s cool to get back and see them.
Q: What else do you want people to know about your journey so far?
A: What else do I want people to know? It’s possible. I mean, coming from anywhere, coming from D-II, coming from D-III, you can get to where you want to be. You’ve just got to go to work every day and focus on those little things and play your game. Don’t worry about anything else.