Rich Donahue | The Duquesne Duke
Winning can be an attitude, culture and a lifestyle. The Clairton High School football team made winning all of those things from 2009 to 2011. This Western Pennsylvania high school pieced together an astonishing 47-game win streak during his tenure, which ended at 66 in 2013, en route to three consecutive state championships.
But what does this Clairton High School have to do with Duquesne?
The reason for the nod to Clairton High is a new addition to the Duquesne football team who played a significant role in their near half decade of dominance. That man is defensive back Trenton Coles.
Coles is in his first year with the Dukes after spending the previous two seasons at the University of Pittsburgh. With the Panthers, Coles saw action in 11 games as a sophomore after redshirting his freshman season. This season, Coles was slated to be in the mix at defensive back for the Panthers, but decided to transfer out of the program on August 20th. In an ESPN.com article, Panthers head coach Paul Chryst said that Coles was looking for a fresh start.
“I appreciate what he has done and he wants a fresh start and we are going to do everything we can do to help him get to a good place,” Chryst said.
Just a month and a half ago, Coles began his search for a new place to play ball. Coles preferred to stay close to home, but there was a problem: he didn’t want to sit out a year of football.
The NCAA mandates that athletes must sit out a full season if they transfer to a school within the same level of competition. However, an athlete can transfer from a Division I to a Division I-AA (or in this case FBS to FCS) without having to miss any action. Eleven days later on Aug. 31, Coles made the decision to enroll at Duquesne and began practicing with the team the same week. He said that he immediately felt welcome at his new school.
“I didn’t want to go too far away and they welcomed me with open arms here,” Coles said.
Despite being a late addition to the team, Coles has been able to contribute to an already loaded Dukes secondary. Coles recorded five tackles, two of those for a loss, in his first four games with the Dukes in limited action. The former Panther joins a secondary that already boasts three Division I transfers: seniors Chris Johnson from the University of Florida and Ken Egu from the University of Washington as well as grad student Orne Bey from Miami (Ohio). Even with the lack of playing time to start with, Coles said he is just glad that he received another opportunity at Duquesne.
“It just has been good overall,” Coles said. “I got a second chance here and it’s been great.”
Duquesne head coach Jerry Schmitt spoke highly of Coles following Saturday’s win against West Liberty, focusing on the speed and toughness that he brings to the table. Schmitt said that the coaching staff is satisfied with Coles’ progression since joining the team.
“He is progressing in the system as he is learning [the system],” Schmitt said. “Obviously he is a talented young man, but we are continuing to teach him to play with the other defensive backs. We are happy with his play to this point.”
When asked about the remainder of the season, Coles, in true Clairton fashion, proclaimed with a smile that Duquesne will win out this year.
“We ain’t losing no more,” Coles said. “That’s my attitude and I am trying to get everybody on the same page as me.”
The Dukes traveled to face Central Connecticut over the weekend. They held a late surge from the Blue Devils to pull out a 28-20 victory in the first game of NEC play.