In a photo shoot in 2011, three area high school seniors met for the first time.
They heaped praise on one another and exchanged phone numbers.
Then Shaq Thompson of Grant wondered out loud, “It’ll be interesting to see how we all turn out.”
Just fine, actually.
That gathering five winters ago in The Sacramento Bee’s photo studio featured Thompson, The Bee’s Player of the Year; Folsom’s Tanner Trosin, the Offensive Player of the Year; and Del Oro’s Alex Bertrando, the Defensive Player of the Year.
Each is still playing, and still starting, albeit at different levels across the country.
Thompson went to Washington, emerged as a first-round draft pick at linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, started 10 games as a rookie and played in front of family and friends in Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium. On Sunday, he scored his first pro touchdown, a 9-yard fumble return to give Carolina its first points of the day in a 46-27 victory over the 49ers.
The day before, Bertrando had 10 tackles for Nevada, which beat Buffalo 38-14 in Reno. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior linebacker and defensive captain leads the Wolf Pack in tackles with 9.3 a game. Bertrando says he isn’t the fastest or most talented player on the field, but good luck finding someone who competes with more passion and ferocity.
Bertrando has returned from a gruesome knee injury that sidelined him the final four games of the 2015 season. Against Fresno State, he was hit from the side as he was making a tackle. His cleat was stuck in the turf while his left leg torqued the other way, tearing two ligaments and leading to reconstructive surgery.
I just know my role. Whenever coach calls my number, that is when I go out and make plays. That’s my role.
Shaq Thompson, Carolina Panthers linebacker and former Grant High star
Trosin watched his small-college Southern Oregon team march downfield in the closing moments Saturday in Ashland to earn its first victory of the season, 24-20 over Montana Western.
A starter last season for the Raiders and the first two games this season, Trosin was sidelined Saturday by an injury.
In a 52-35 win at UC Davis on Sept. 10, Trosin passed for 428 yards and three touchdowns, including a school-record 93-yarder to former Roseville High star Zack Davis, who caught the game winner against Western Montana.
Trosin’s football journey has taken him from Folsom, where he set state season passing records (broken by Jake Browning, now at Washington), to Cal Poly, American River College and finally Southern Oregon, where he is a senior.
Shaq has done everything that has been asked of him. He is a great kid. He works his butt off, and he wants to be good.
Thomas Davis, Carolina Panthers linebacker, on teammate Shaq Thompson
Thompson entered the NFL draft following his junior season in 2014. His career has been defined by his playmaking ability, be it at linebacker or as a last-minute fill-in at tailback. Thompson returned a fumble 99 yards for a touchdown in a 31-7 victory at Cal in 2014. Later that season, he rushed for 174 yards and a score on 15 carries in a 38-23 win over Colorado.
On Thompson’s last carry in college against Colorado, an 8-inch dreadlock snaking out of the back of his helmet was yanked off. He still sports dreads, but he hasn’t lost any locks this season. Nor has he lost the ability to pounce on a loose ball.
“I just know my role,” Thompson told reporters after Sunday’s game. “Whenever coach calls my number, that is when I go out and make plays. That’s my role.”
Said Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis: “Shaq has done everything that has been asked of him. He is a great kid. He works his butt off, and he wants to be good. He played multiple positions in college, so it made his adjustment to this NFL level of what we are doing fairly easy. We use him at nickel sometimes, and he is playing linebacker in different situations, and he has been really good for us.”
▪ Wyatt Demps of Pleasant Grove has two touchdown receptions this season for Nevada after having none his first two seasons in Reno. His brother, Cody, is playing wide receiver at Sacramento State and has nine receptions for 129 yards after starting four years at guard for the Hornets’ basketball team.