Eagles feature

What stood out most to Clemson DC about Jeremiah Trotter Jr. 

Clemson defensive coordinator Wes Goodwin explains what it was like to coach Jeremiah Trotter Jr.

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Jeremiah Trotter Jr. might not be the biggest, fastest or strongest linebacker.

It just doesn’t matter.

“He’s been a MIKE linebacker since birth,” Clemson defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Wes Goodwin said to NBC Sports Philadelphia on Wednesday, “just being around his dad, growing up around the linebacker position. Just his instincts and ability to track and find the football is pretty special. 

“Watching him grow coming in as a true freshman and leaving here as a Butkus finalist, All-American and All-ACC and just how he grew at the position. Early on, you could tell his ability to find the football is pretty special.”

While Philly fans know Trotter Jr. as the fifth-round pick and son of an Eagles Hall of Famer, Goodwin knows Trotter Jr. as the instinctive linebacker who flashed from Day 1 and grew into his role as the leader of the Clemson defense.

At Clemson, Trotter Jr. filled up the stat sheet in his two years as a starter with 177 tackles, 12 sacks, 28 1/2 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 2 pick-6s, 3 forced fumbles and 10 pass breakups.

Those stats didn’t happen by accident.

“His nose for the football, first and foremost,” Goodwin said. “He’s always around the football. He plays with great effort, tremendous motor, he plays like his hair’s on fire. His ability to process things. Playing linebacker in today’s world is a great challenge with all the multiples and problems that offenses present in today’s game. But his ability to find the football, track and process things is special.”

Because of a hamstring during the pre-draft process, the Eagles had to draft Trotter without any standardized athletic scores. He didn’t compete at the Combine or at the Clemson pro day so there’s no official 40 time or 3-cone or broad jump.

But the Eagles felt confident based on his tape and GPS data that Trotter (6-0, 228) is plenty athletic to play at the next level.

And after coaching him the last three seasons, Goodwin has no concerns about that either.

“No, not at all,” he said. “Sometimes guys get caught up in, ‘Hey, he’s gotta be this certain size or he’s gotta run this fast or he’s gotta jump this high,’ But at the end of the day, those guys that are playing efficient and are playing fast. He may run a 4.7 40 but he’s playing at a speed that’s faster than those guys that are 4.4, 4.5 but, hey, they don’t process and see things the way he does.”

While Trotter Jr. made a name for himself at St. Joseph’s Prep and then at Clemson, there’s no hiding the fact that he’s the son of Jeremiah Trotter. And it goes beyond the No. 54 jersey and the well-known Axe Man celebration.

The NFL bloodlines show up in other areas too.

“No question,” Goodwin said. “Just his daily habits, just his preparation from film study to taking notes, being inquisitive about how we’re playing certain sets, coverages, that sort of thing. You can tell he’s been schooled up at home.”

Goodwin described Trotter Jr.’s personality and quiet and reserved until you get to know him. After that, Goodwin said, Trotter really lets his personality out a bit more and shows his sense of humor. Early in his time at Clemson, Trotter was a lead-by-example type but became more vocal as the years went on. Goodwin enjoyed watching that evolution.

In fact, one of Goodwin’s favorite memories of Trotter came after a loss in Miami to the Hurricanes this past Oct. 21. After that game, Trotter stood in front of his defensive teammates to refocus them and to “pour his heart out.” The Tigers went 5-1 down the stretch.

“No one’s more respected in our locker room than Jeremiah Trotter,” Goodwin said. “Everybody listens when he speaks.”

Another memory that stood out to Goodwin?

It was when Trotter broke out his dad’s Axe Man celebration after sacking Hurricanes quarterback Jacuzzi Brown to pin them deep in the first quarter of what ended up being a blowout Tigers win in 2022.

Goodwin said he can still vividly recall the axe chop that day. 

“I can’t wait to see him get the first opportunity in Philly to do it,” he said.

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