Regional and national camp exposure, in any sport, is usually reserved for the best athletes in the particular sport of discussion.
And there’s no doubt that Trent Salyers, after overcoming the adversity that he had to go through during his junior season, is certainly in that class.
On April 12, Salyers, through his personal Twitter account, revealed to his followers that he had been invited to an Elite 11 Regional football combine — presented as part of Nike’s “The Opening” Division — with the message, “A dream come true. Truly blessed and excited to say that I will be attending @TheOpening next month. #Elite 11”
For Salyers, the opportunity to compete for an invite to the national Nike Football The Opening Finals in Beaverton, Ore. is an opportunity that, as the tweet describes, is a blessing.
“It feels amazing,” Salyers said. “Ever since I started to play at the quarterback position and have heard about the Elite 11, I’ve been watching videos of guys who have made it (to that point). It’s always been a goal of mine to get invited to one, it’s a dream come true, really. Honestly, it doesn’t even feel real. I can’t wait to get up to Massillon.”
The opportunity to attend such a camp, however, is well-deserved for the young man who led Wheelersburg to its first state football title since 1989 — and did so while battling a broken leg through the vast majority of the Division V State Championship affair against Pemberville Eastwood.
Over the 2017 season, Salyers completed 211 of his 326 passes for 3,483 yards and 35 touchdowns while throwing just a dozen picks, ultimately obtaining a quarterback rating of 136 and completing 65 percent of his passes in the process. The junior then added 470 yards rushing and an additional 11 touchdowns on the ground on 113 carries to ultimately accumulate 3,953 yards of total offense and 46 touchdowns on his own. Because of those stats, Salyers now holds the school record for passing yards, all-purpose yards, and touchdown passes in a single season — and that’s with a season to go to improve on such statistics.
Those stats, however, even pale in comparison to the toughness of the signal-caller.
When the junior broke his fibula with 4:13 to go in the third quarter, the senior battled through the pain and led Wheelersburg to perhaps its most remarkable victory in school history regardless of sport.
Down 14-7 following a touchdown blast by Pemberville Eastwood’s Jake Rayford with less than 90 seconds to play in the contest, Salyers made four of the biggest passes of his life. He competed a 17-yard pass to Bryson Keeney on a third-and-eight. He competed a 31-yard streaker down the sideline to Cole Lowery. Then, there was a 13-yarder to Tanner Holden that set up the final touchdown pass to send the contest to an overtime session that Wheelersburg emerged victorious from — the 12-yard pass to Makya Matthews that tied the score.
“I’m excited to not only show what I can do on the field with my arm and my legs, but to show them that I am tough, that I can lead a team and can lead guys around and make them better.”
According to the camp’s website, all of the quarterbacks who receive training at these regional competitions “receive advanced one-on-one quarterback instruction,” with accuracy competitions, routes-on-air and a final two-minute drill.
Ten of the past 11 quarterbacks that have won the Heisman Trophy have attended the Elite 11 Finals or an Elite 11 Regional, while 34 of the top 44 NFL passers in 2015 attended the Elite 11 Finals or an Elite 11 Regional, including No. 1 pverall draft choices in Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston, and Matthew Stafford, who need no introduction, in addition to Deshaun Watson and Marcus Mariota.
“To be mentioned with those guys is something super incredible,” Salyers said. “You can’t even put that into words.”
To be in tune for it, however, Salyers knew that he had to get back to work. The recent National Honor Society inductee had, admittedly, been slacking.
“My Dad (Dusty) actually has the password to my email, so as soon as he got that and I got word of it, I told my Dad, ‘It’s time for me to start grinding every day,’” Salyers said. “Up to that point, I was kind of lackadaisical. I was lifting here and there, but I wasn’t lifting and taking it as serious as I should’ve been. Ever since that day, I’ve been running. I ran with the track team so I could get faster and get my 40 time down when I get down there.”
And while he had been working out with the team, Salyers hadn’t done actual rehab or therapy on his leg. That was a point of emphasis that the senior-to-be made sure that he had taken care of — considering that Saturday’s action, other than throwing with his coaches and his father, Dusty will be the first time that Salyers has participated in an organized, live setting.
“I’ve been working out every day with the football team, then, on top of that, I started going to a rehab center, because I really didn’t do any rehab or therapy on my leg after I broke it,” Salyers said. “I’ve made sure that I took care of that and put in some extra rehab on my leg in order to make sure that I get all of my footwork right and make sure that I’m still tuned up in order to perform to the best of my ability.”
Because Salyers, ultimately, wants to put ‘Da Burg on ‘Da Map. However, one could say that the 6-1 gunslinger had already done that long before this invite took place.
“Getting Wheelersburg back on the map is a huge goal of mine,” Salyers said. “I’m going to use the platform that I’m on to bring as much attention as I possibly can back to Wheelersburg. I know that (the Elite 11 invite) means a lot to the people around here. When I posted on Twitter that I got the invite, it wasn’t just kids supporting me, but grownups and adults around the community messaging me, commenting back to my Tweet, telling me how proud they were of me. To be able to make the people around me proud, and the community, means everything to me. Hopefully, I can represent them well when I get up to Massillon.”
Salyers will be competing in the Canton Regional, which will be held at Massillon Washington High School, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, visit https://www.elite11.com/regionals or https://www.theopening.com/regionals.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT