EWU’s Trufant the ‘total package’

Note: The well-traveled defensive back now plays for the New York Jets.

By Ed Odeven
(Published in the Arizona Daily Sun on Oct. 7, 2004)

Foreshadowing is a popular storytelling device in literature and movies. It also happens, when you least expect it, on the football field.

On the opening kickoff of Isaiah Trufant’s first college football game against Arizona State in 2002, he forced a fumble.

In his 25 games as an Eastern Washington Eagle, Trufant has continued his climb to stardom and become one of the Big Sky Conference’s premier cornerbacks in the process.

“He is a real active player and he does have a sense for the ball,” Northern Arizona coach Jerome Souers said. “He has excellent man-coverage skills. Beyond that, he has the total package when it comes to playing defensive football.”

Trufant’s numbers support that claim.

In two-plus seasons as a starter, the Tacoma, Wash., native has eight career interceptions, 17 pass breakups and 85 tackles. He picked off four passes as a sophomore and returned two of them for touchdowns. Through five games this season, Trufant has 14 tackles, one interception (a 52-yarder against Idaho State last week), six pass breakups and a forced fumble.

Trufant earned third-team All-West Region honors from Football Gazette and second-team All-Big Sky Conference honors last year. He has been a Big Sky All-Academic team member for two years and counting.

Though he’s 5-foot-7 and 155 pounds, Trufant more than makes up for his short stature with big-time athleticism. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds and has a 40-inch vertical leap.

“I’m not the cocky type or nothing like that, but I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished,” Trufant said.

The name Trufant should sound familiar to West Coast football fans. His older brother, Marcus, starred at Washington State and now makes a living playing for the Seattle Seahawks (he was the 11th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft). The elder Trufant had his No. 41 retired by Tacoma Wilson High School during the Seahawks’ bye week two weeks ago.

Years ago, Isaiah was Marcus’ biggest supporter.

“That’s when my football drive started, when I’d see him out there making big plays,” Trufant remembered. “I was a young kid on the sideline, running and cheering him on. He’s always been a big influence on my football career. I look up to him a lot. He’s been a good role model.”

The younger Trufant got his start playing for the Boys & Girls Club of Tacoma as a fourth grader. He first lined up as a running back, but after a few games starting playing on the defensive side of the ball, too.

“After that, it’s been second nature,” he said.

Trufant wants to follow his brother’s footsteps and play in the pros.

“That’s always the goal,” he said. “That’s at least 99 percent of everybody’s goal to get to the league, but I’m not going to let that ruin my life if I don’t get there. Of course, I’m going to leave Eastern Washington with a good education (he’s a business administration major) and I’ll be able to have something to start off my life and fall back on if I don’t make it.

“Of course, I’m trying to make the strides to get there.”

Game after game, Trufant makes the type of plays that capture the attention of NFL scouts. Tipped passes, diving breakups, interceptions and a penchant for not shying away from tackling bigger, stronger players are all impressive sections of his ever-expanding rsum.

Often facing one-on-one coverage against a team’s top receiver, Trufant is in the spotlight on a regular basis.

Does this fire him up?

“There’s a little trash talking every now and then going on, especially when you are playing man coverage,” he said. “It’s a big up to help your defense break up a ball, especially a deep ball or a big play like fourth-and-long. … It’s a good momentum swing.”

Trufant and his teammates certainly recall their defensive debacle in 2003, when NAU lit up the scoreboard, scoring on its first five possessions in a 54-31 victory. And even though All-Big Sky receivers Clarence Moore and Johnny Marshall are gone, Trufant acknowledged the Eagle defense will have its hands full with NAU’s ever-improving passing attack.

“I see that they’ve got some pretty good receivers, and another tall guy, No. 87 (6-6 freshman Kory Mahr),” Trufant said. “I know they lob it up to him a lot. I know all year we are going to get that because of the size of our cornerbacks.” Ryan Phillips, the Eagles’ other starting corner, is 5-10.

Trufant is quick to point out that besides his brother, Deion Sanders and Charles Woodson are his favorite NFL corners because they are “shutdown corners.”

“They are a little flashy. I like their style out there,” he said. “Deion might talk a little more than I would out there, but I like his style of play.”

It’s safe to suggest that Eagles defensive coordinator Jody Sears likes Trufant’s style of play. What’s not to like?