CONNECTING STUDENT ATHLETES WITH COLLEGE COACHES
Trey Pettis' dreams are about to come true.
"Since he was 5 years old, he's said he's dreamed about playing football for FSU," said his father and head coach, Kevin Pettis. "He said he's dreamed about running out of that tunnel in Doak Campbell Stadium, and he wants to follow those dreams."
Ruen BeaneTrey Pettis is looking forward to running out of the tunnel before Florida State home games next fall.
At 6-foot-5, 290 pounds, Pettis is the quintessential football overachiever. He has started four years on the line, first at Dr. Phillips (Orlando, Fla.) and then DeLand. He is usually the first player in the weight room and the first to study the film.
According to his father, it's safe to say football consumes his life.
"I grew up in Wewahitchka, Fla., and I loved to hunt and fish in rivers and lakes up that way," Kevin said. "One day we're out there fishing and I asked Trey to go check on the plugs and he's like, 'Dad, where are they?' And I was like, 'Dang son, I thought you knew where they were,' and then it hit me that he didn't grow up the same way.
"So I asked him if he was upset that he didn't grow up fishing and hunting like I did and he said, 'Dad, I love football. That's what I do and that's what I'm about.'"
As the coach's son, the common misconception is that Trey feels obligated to be the team leader and the most reliable player, but his father says that just comes naturally.
"You're not going to make a kid do something they don't want to do, especially in a sport like football," Kevin said. "He is a self-motivated kid who has grown into a man. He could do whatever he wants and I'll be 100 percent behind him. He's the one who makes the decision every day to get up and do what it takes to be a better person and a better football player."
However, some of those decisions take much more work than others.
During Trey's recruitment, he looked at several schools -- including Florida, Illinois, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Ole Miss -- but one school caught his eye early: Texas Tech.
"We went down to Tech and had a great time with the coaching staff," Kevin said. "They told him that they need their lineman to be big and bad."
With that in mind, Trey started to gain weight, getting up to 325 pounds.
Then the offer from FSU came and the commitment to the Seminoles followed -- along with a different philosophy. Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett is a former U.S. Marine Corps veteran, and he likes his linemen to be lean and mean.
"So basically coach Trickett told Trey that he could 'pay me now or pay me later,'" Kevin said. "So Trey decided to do what he had to do now. Coach Trickett gave him a plan, and he's followed it to the letter."
With an aggressive schedule of running and eating better, Trey is down nearly 40 pounds and enters his school's summer offseason program at around 290.
"I feel so much faster already; I can tell the difference," Trey said. "I don't feel any less strong, but I feel much more conditioned."
Such a drastic change will not only help Trey when he gets to Tallahassee, but it should help him in his senior season at DeLand, where the Bulldogs are trying to reach the Class 6A state championship game for the second year in the row.
"I think everything I'm doing now will make a difference quickly," Trey said. "We were all proud of making it to the state championship game, and now we're going to work harder so we can win it."
As for Florida State, they will not only get a football player but a devoted fan, too.
"Trey is going to be a Seminole 24/7," Kevin said. "Some guys go to school to play football and that's what they are about and that's fine. But Trey is going to be at the basketball games and the girls' soccer games leading the cheers. And if you bad mouth one of his teammates in his presence, be prepared to fight his big [behind]."
With his love of the program, it makes sense that the lineman was coach Jimbo Fisher's first commit.
"The day Trey committed was the same day Bobby Bowden officially retired," Kevin said. "And Trey loved coach Bowden; he has the offer signed by the coach framed on his wall. So coach Bowden resigns and Trey tells me he's going to commit and I ask him, 'Are you sure?'
"Well, he told me FSU was his dream school and he no longer had to worry about which coach was going to be there. He wanted to play for coach Trickett, and as long as he knew coach Trickett was going to be there, that's where he was going to go."
Trey plans to major in international business and education with the plans of one day teaching high school and becoming a coach himself.
"My dad is great inspiration to me," Trey said. "He always tries to be the best and he's always taught be to be the best I can at everything I try."
On the field, Trey, ESPN Recruiting's No. 7 ranked center, projects that he'll play tackle for the Seminoles, the same position he plays at DeLand. He is willing to move to the interior line again; he played center as a freshman and sophomore and has also spent time playing guard.
"They can put me anywhere on the line they need me," Trey said.
Trey is part of a line that is considered to be one of the best run-blocking units in the state. In 2009, both De'Ante "Pops" Saunders and Shontrelle Johnson rushed for 1,000 yards. Johnson has moved on to Iowa State but Saunders, a Florida commit, will be back.
Despite their difference in colleges, Trey assures DeLand fans that the two teammates are good friends.
"We will give each other a little grief but it's all in good fun," he said. "I'm happy for him, he's happy for me and we're both where we want to be. And if Pops ever wants to come join me in Tallahassee, I will be more than happy to have him."
As for now, Trey continues to dream, knowing it will soon become a reality.
"I still think about it every night -- the tunnel, Doak Campbell Stadium, the fans, the War Chant," Trey said. "I can't wait to be in that garnet and gold uniform and part of that experience. I can't wait."
Corey Long has been covering high school football and recruiting in the Sunshine State since 1995. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.