Trinca-Pasat hopes long, winding road leads to NFL

INDIANAPOLIS - Louis Trinca-Pasat isn't the best defensive linemen at the NFL Scouting Combine by a longshot.

He's not even the best prospect at the Combine from his own high school - Chicago's Lane Tech.

His high school teammate, Duke's Laken Tomlinson, is rated as one of the few top guards this year, a likely second-day selection, when the second and third rounds will be conducted. Trinca-Pasat is expected to be a third-day pick (rounds 4-7).

But the 6-foot-3, 290-pound Trinca-Pasat has one of the more interesting back stories of all the draft-eligible players. His unique path to Indianapolis was most likely the longest of any of the 323 players participating.

It started in Romania where his parents departed in the late 1980s and continued in Chicago, where Louis was born - and where things as frivolous as sports weren't encouraged during his strict upbringing.

"They were all about church and school," Trinca-Pasat said, "and if we even thought about sports, we'd probably get a butt-whipping."

That's changed over the years. Trinca-Pasat didn't play football until his freshman year at Lane Tech, but he started his final 38 games at Iowa, piquing his parents' interest in a sport they once knew or cared nothing about.

"They made it to every home game and most of the away games as much as they could," he said. "(Now) my parents are asking, 'Why did the ref throw the flag on that play? What's going on?' They're learning the rules, which is nice to see. They've always been a great support, so I'm blessed."

Trinca-Pasat would not have been allowed to play football at Lane if his grades suffered, and they didn't. He graduated with a 4.0 GPA and finished his undergraduate work at Iowa with a 4.2 before starting to pursue his masters last year.

The importance of education was prioritized in the Trinca-Pasat household.

"If I got a 'B' on my report card, I might get a whuppin, so is that strict?" he said, smiling. "As far as going out, when we were young, I got to go sleep over at a friend's house was when I was about 14 years old.

"Other than that, we were at home, waking up every Saturday morning and going to work with my dad at buildings and cleaning them. We didn't have much growing up, so we had to help out, and I guess that instilled a lot of values in me, like discipline and hard work."

Just after his parents emigrated, Trinca-Pasat's father worked maintenance and eventually became a building engineer. His mother worked as a seamstress and at a dry cleaners and is now the head cook at an elementary school.

Their youngest has always been able to handle the academics at any level. But shortly after he arrived in Iowa City, Trinca-Pasat realized how big the jump in athletic competition was from the Chicago Public League to the Big 10. He needed the support of his Lane Tech buddy Tomlinson, who he says is "like brother," among others.

He considered quitting.

Playing defensive tackle for the first time at Iowa after playing linebacker, wide receiver and tight end at Lane, Trinca-Pasat - at around 230 pounds - was no match for bigger, stronger, more experienced teammates and opponents.

"I just wasn't used to the constant grit and grind and banging every single play," he said. "I'm so hard on myself, and getting beat, getting tossed like a rag doll, it just took a toll.

"But I've had great support, and it helped me stay in this game, and the strength staff (at Iowa) helped me develop and get bigger and stronger. It's been a great process."

The story of the Lane Tech buddies would become even better with NFL success, but it's already a rare tale with both of them at the combine.

"It's a great accomplishment," Trinca-Pasat said. "I've never heard of anybody else from our school doing that. It's always tough for the city public schools because they can't recruit the athletes, and we don't have the money for the best facilities.

"It just comes down to work ethic and that personal competition within (each) player or his desire to play football. I'm proud to represent my high school, and hopefully I continue to do so."

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