PETALUMA — This is the Trent Herzog I know. This is the Trent Herzog so many people around here know. This story shows why so many people in this small town are having a hard time dealing with his exit, and why three of the school’s biggest financial supporters of athletics have decided to walk away.
Just so you know, the player’s name and the game will not be identified. The kid is a great kid. He was just acting like a kid at the time. So I will protect his identity.
Casa Grande had just won a big football game. The Gauchos played well against a quality opponent and while it wasn’t an upset, the victory wasn’t assumed. Herzog drew his players into a tight circle after the game. I was standing off his right shoulder. I heard everything.
Herzog began his speech, talking about how proud he was of them. They took the challenge and answered it convincingly.
Herzog was in mid-sentence when the best player on the team blurted out some colorful expletives celebrating the joy he and his mates were feeling.
Herzog paused in mid-sentence, stared at the best player on his team and said with a firm voice: “We don’t talk like that around here.”
That’s all Herzog said. Didn’t have to say any more. All the yelping stopped. The player lowered his head, embarrassed.
Herzog didn’t have to respond to the outburst. In fact, given the moment, most coaches would have shrugged. Youthful exuberance. It happens. Football is an emotional game. Especially after this victory. Yet Herzog felt no game, no victory, no matter how special, is worth losing perspective. No reason to act like a knucklehead. No reason to lose your civility. Treat others the way you’d want to be treated; that’s always been his mantra. Respect is given when respect is earned.
So when the Casa players gathered in the weight room this Monday after school, to begin their offseason workout routine, they crumbled when the news trickled in. “Trent’s gone!” Some started to cry, some bawled, all stared into empty space. In short order they fled. Left campus. Heck with the workout. The man who taught them how to man up, why it was important to be held accountable, was gone.
They felt untethered.
“He turned my son into a man,” said Chris Korte, the mother of Dylan, a former Gauchos offensive tackle now on scholarship at the University of Idaho. “And those boys who were crying, it was the big boys crying … did you know about last May? Do you know what he did?”
With Dylan and Dylan’s father, Scott, Herzog flew to the Pacific Northwest. The three toured East Washington University, the University of Montana and Idaho.
Herzog wanted to see if Idaho worked for Dylan since the university had offered him a scholarship. They met with former Gauchos kicker Matt Abramo, who was still with Washington State at the time, to get a taste of campus life.
“Trent spent his Memorial Day weekend with Dylan,” Chris Korte said. “Who does that?”
Yes indeed. Who does that? To say Herzog goes out of his way for kids, it’s not like he goes out of his way to shake their hands. No, he goes out of his way for kids to shake hands of college coaches and players, even if it’s to go out of state. So many youth coaches claim they are in it for the kids, a nice catch-all phrase that sounds good, but all too frequently is hollow.