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Seize the day

ASHLAND — All Tanner Trosin has ever wanted was an opportunity on the football field.

After that, the Folsom, Calif., product figured whatever followed would take care of itself.

Such thinking worked out fine when he was moved from wide receiver to quarterback as a senior at Folsom High and wound up posting record-setting numbers by completing 360 of 527 passes for 5,185 yards and 49 touchdowns.

It didn’t pan out quite as well when he opted to join the Cal Poly program out of high school and found himself on a four-deep list at quarterback in an offense that envisioned more running than passing.

Seeking another opportunity at American River College after a transfer, Trosin again hit paydirt as a college sophomore when he amassed 2,268 passing yards on 62-percent accuracy for a program that came up just short in the California Community College Northern California Regional championship.

Then Southern Oregon University came calling — and Trosin was intrigued. The Raiders had just won the program’s first NAIA national championship and the prospect of winning on a national scale was simply too good to pass up.

Trosin didn’t come in as the favorite to take over at quarterback for 2014 NAIA Player of the Year Austin Dodge, the 6-foot, 180-pound junior just wanted to be part of the competition to assume the reins of one of the nation’s most productive offensive attacks.

Dodge’s backup, sophomore Kamerun Smith, earned the starting nod out of summer camp but it didn’t take long for Trosin to open a few eyes when he stepped in to engineer a 38-35 comeback win over Eastern Oregon in the second week of the season. In that game, Trosin ran for 116 yards and three touchdowns and completed 17 of 20 passes for 173 yards to send signs of what he was capable of in SOU’s system.

Since then, Trosin has started nine of the 12 games for Southern Oregon (10-2) and has the No. 7 Raiders poised for a repeat trip to the national championship game should they be able to get over one more giant hurdle in No. 1-ranked Morningside (Iowa) in Saturday’s semifinals. Kickoff is 10 a.m. PST in Sioux City, Iowa.

Trosin ranks 14th in the NAIA in total offense at 258 yards per game. He has completed 195 of 296 passes for 2,318 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions and run 115 times for 779 yards and 10 scores.

“Quarterback is a special position in our program,” said Raiders head coach Craig Howard. “We found a winner in this kid and we’re excited to watch him develop.”

The SOU staff isn’t nearly as excited as Trosin, who can’t say enough about the loving and caring atmosphere in Ashland and the true brotherhood he feels with his teammates in a diverse culture fostered by Howard and his staff.

“It’s been a great opportunity to play here in Southern Oregon,” said Trosin. “I’m grateful coach Howard and the coaching staff were able to find me and allow me to be a part of this unique family we’ve got here at SOU.”

Above all else, though, the 21-year-old standout wants to make it clear that the Raiders’ success has more to do with the entire unit than anything he’s done individually.

“Without the whole aspect of everybody putting their one-elevenths in, this wouldn’t be happening,” Trosin said of the team’s ability to reach the semifinals. “I didn’t just get us here, the whole team got us here to where we are now. I know the quarterback plays a huge role in how the offense works but collectively if it wasn’t for awesome offensive line and running backs and receivers, we wouldn’t be here. We all have put in a tremendous effort and hard work and that’s what got us here.”

Still, Trosin’s playmaking abilities haven’t hurt the process.

The Baker (Kan.) defense fell prey to Trosin’s creativity in last week’s 24-19 upset win by SOU when, on third-and-13, Trosin escaped a pair of defenders, juked another and kept his wits about him to find Matt Retzlaff for a pass that the former South Medford High standout would take for a 60-yard TD and pivotal 21-10 advantage in the third quarter.

“Some of his plays where he avoids the sacks are just magical plays,” said Howard. “It’s just fun to watch. I think he’s got eyes in the back of his head.”

“He’s got a great competitive spirit and he’s fun to coach that way,” added the coach. “Every down he’s trying to score and make something happen. As the season wore on and he became more comfortable with the offense, we’ve been able to do more and more things with him. He’s done a great job of adapting and now he’s a leader and players look for him to be a playmaker and he’s loving it.”

Trosin, again, deferred the spotlight on what he’s been able to accomplish thus far.

“I’ve got to give credit to coach Howard and the unbelievable staff they’ve got here because they’ve really been getting after me and preparing me to be able to run their offense and become the football player they want me to be,” said Trosin.

Fitting into the system definitely wasn’t a natural thing for Trosin, who had to learn on the fly to pick up one of the most complex schemes he’s seen. The early test may not have been easy, but the grades along the way continue to get better.

“Once you learn it and you know why we’re doing the things that we do, it makes total sense,” said Trosin. “Once it clicks you understand completely, but it just takes some time and repetition of plays over and over again to see it.”

It also just took time for Trosin to gain his opportunity at Southern Oregon, and he was more than ready to capitalize when it happened.

“Coach Howard always expresses how we always have to be humble and hungry,” said Trosin. “Even though I didn’t get to play right away and had to ease my way in, I just had to stay humble and keep working hard and keep my head up until my shot came. I was preparing myself for anything that might happen and my opportunity and when that time came and the bell rang, I was ready to step up.”

And the best part is, the opportunities just keep on coming for Trosin.

“I’m still learning and still have a lot to improve on,” he said. “I think that’s the best part of this offense, there’s always things to get better at and improve on and our mentors and coaches work with us on that every day. I’m really, really excited to have this opportunity and be part of this great system.”

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

SOU quarterback Tanner Trosin was a wide receiver at Folsom High in California and was at Cal Poly and American River College before coming to Ashland. PHOTO BY LARRY STAUTH JR.