It seemed Oshea Trujillo was living some type of double life. Six-year old by day. Master networker by night. He was a quasi-celebrity, a mayor-like figure in Seattle who couldn’t go into public without people flocking to him.
Tara Trujillo would let her son finish his conversation then ask him, “Who was that?”
“We would be at a grocery store and someone would come up and start talking to him,” Tara said. "He’d be like, ‘Oh, I met him at the gym,’ or “That’s so-and-so’s dad.’
“Like you’re 6-years old, how do you know people that I don’t know? … I think people would come up to him like that because he’s memorable.”
That’s an understatement. Trujillo makes himself known wherever he’s at. From a childhood in Seattle to Bishop Blanchet High to the six years he’s spent in Pocatello. The Idaho State super-senior linebacker is the emotional leader of the Bengals, a captain coach Rob Phenicie relies on to uplift the locker room.
After the Bengals season-opening loss to North Dakota, it was Trujillo who stood before his teammates in the locker room and criticized their effort level, telling them wins won’t come until they play up to their abilities.
It’s taken Trujillo some time in the Gate City to earn that sort of leadership position. Trujillo was not unanimously loved when he first got to ISU, which isn’t exactly surprising. Trujillo is an acquired taste, his personality acting like an aged wine. He’s brash and honest – the type of person whose idea of a nightmare is a silent room.
“Oshea and I butted heads tremendously our first couple years. He would fight and argue and yell at each other in practice,” Phenicie said. “Then the light went on and he figured me out and now he’s established himself as a leader … He’s arguably, if not my favorite person on the team now.”
Trujillo has a way of winning people over. It is not always quick, but eventually people realize they can’t change him. He can’t stop talking. You can tell him to shut up a million times and his jaws are still going to move.
Idaho State defensive coordinator Roger Cooper has three rules for his linebackers: 1. Never lie. 2. Run to the ball. 3. Know when to work, know when to play. Then there’s rule 3.5 – special for Trujillo. Never talk when I’m talking.
“All-American Mouthpiece,” Cooper joked.
Turns out, Cooper was not the first coach who tried to quell Trujillo’s chatty nature.
“We’d sit in team meetings working through a presentation or power point or some type of install and he would continue to speak up,” said Aaron Maul, Trujillo’s high school coach. “It would be like, ‘Oshea, you’ve gotta shut your mouth. Close your mouth, coach is talking.’”
A few minutes after, Maul said, coaches would head to the staff room and agree with everything Trujillo blurted out. “We’d be like, ‘God, the kid doesn’t shut up, but he’s right.”
That’s the thing, Trujillo’s words have an impact. His fellow linebacker, Connor Wills, said Trujillo’s attitude “permeates everyone else,” which infects the team with this sort of unbridled confidence.
Those are the benefits of Trujillo’s mouth. When harnessed, there’s not a better coaching tool.
“We had to get to a place where we were like, that has to be celebrated,” Maul said. “We’re not going to ask a kid to not be himself because him being himself is his gift to our program.”
The only downside of such a gift is it doesn’t show up on any stat sheet. So despite pounding his way to the rushing touchdown record at Bishop Blanchet and being an All-Metro Defensive MVP in Seattle, no college wanted Trujillo.
Except Idaho State.
The Bengals and Army were the only two schools that handed Trujillo an offer. All those high school accolades. All the praise from the coaches. All those records. None of it seemed to mean much to college coaches.
“I told you,” he said, “I went to a small school.”
Even so, little interest means little options. So Trujillo trekked to Pocatello, ready to play defense full-time with added motivation.
“Oshea is a pretty quiet guy. I was definitely more outwardly anxious about it, or maybe even pissed off about it than him,” Tara noted. “He would never say, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe I’m not getting offers.’ He’s just not that kind of guy.”
“It’s a chip on your shoulder,” Trujillo said of his recruitment. “You either have to put about it or you’re going to do something about it.”
Perhaps that explains why Trujillo can make friends with strangers in seconds. He doesn’t think of himself above or below anyone else. He’s mature in that way, willing to speak to others just because he’s curious.
Starting in about second grade, Trujillo rode the city bus two miles to school each morning. His mom never accompanied him on those trips, but she’s sure he chatted up every person who shared the bus with him for a few minutes every day.
“100%,” Tara said.
When he got older, Trujillo would train at a Seattle-based gym called Ford Sports Performance (FSP), a hotbed for the best football plays in the Emerald City to come together. That included a few players on the Seattle Seahawks, including All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner, who would share a gym with high schoolers.
Training-wise, there’s nothing better for a young kid. But, of course, Trujillo stuck out – so much so that Wagner showed up to support the Bishop Blanchet on the night he broke the school’s touchdown record.
Trujillo is all about relationships, which is sometimes baffling to people meeting him for the first time.
“People like Oshea, he has a lot to offer, but I feel like since he loud people kind of mistake him,” said ISU defensive lineman Raemo Trevino, who also played with Trujillo in high school. “They might think he’s mad or something, but he just has something to say.”
He always has something to say. In some circles, that’s a negative trait bound to have poor consequences. But those who embrace Trujillo’s personality and his mouth often benefit from it.
The Idaho State linebacker is a triple major in marketing, management and finance. Whatever path he chooses, though, his prosperity won’t be because of any degree. It’ll be because of his charisma.
“He’s going to be successful because of his mouth and the relationships he’s able to make,” Tara said.