Many knew Trenton Irwin as Santa Clarita’s “Football Boy” for always wearing one of his 150 jerseys and carrying a football. He wasn’t a kid who spent his days watching cartoons and playing video games, but rather watched football games and worked on his shots.
Irwin’s dedication since childhood has impressed everyone, including his family, with his focus on the sport. The dedication led Irwin to high school, college, and now a professional football career. He will play with the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.
Irwin’s father, Craig, was overjoyed and expressed his gratitude for the good fortune the Irwin family had to live in Santa Clarita and attend Hart High School. Irwin’s work helped pave the way for his siblings Shawn, who plays football at Hart, and Alyssa, who played football for Hart and now plays for the University of California, Santa Barbara.
The youngest brother, Ava, is 10 years old and will continue the tradition of attending Hart High School. The Irwins will eventually have a student attending 16 of 18 years since 2011 without a break, according to Craig.
Craig added that he was proud of his son’s success in the National Football League, but he was proud of the man Irwin has become. He said Irwin’s drive to help student-athletes get into college, play sports and earn a degree is admirable and gives Irwin purpose.
“We often talk about his purpose in life, and it’s helping kids get into college,” Craig said.
Many high school athletes are often told the daunting statistics about the odds of playing in college and the likelihood of going to a professional league. The ratings are meant to keep student-athlete expectations realistic, but at such an early stage it can discourage potential, according to Craig.
Craig said if you put in the time and work on it, you can do it. It’s the same reasoning Irwin has and plans to instill in athletes during his athletic camp in Santa Clarita on March 5.
This is the same Irwin who works with Cincinnati youth for the Saturday Hoops organization, helping to improve their outlook on life, encourage them, and build positivity in at-risk youth.
During the offseason, Irwin trains locally and has even helped out with the chain gang for Hart’s football games. His family, friends and school mentors are all in Santa Clarita and he loves coming home.
“My family still lives in Santa Clarita, which is where I go back to train every year,” Irwin said. “Santa Clarita is where I call home.”
Irwin said Hart was his home for four years and he kept in touch with the sports organization and teachers. He is proud to return to the classroom where he learned and to talk to the teachers who positively influenced him.
Irwin has also acted in commercials for Kraft Velveeta, Microsoft and other productions. When he missed football practice for an acting gig, he had to sit out the first quarter of his first game at Hart. It would be his last acting gig.
6-foot-2 Irwin played wide receiver at Hart. During his high school career, he earned numerous honors in the greater Los Angeles area and became one of California’s top 100 prospects. He finished his senior year with 61 total touchdowns, including 57 touchdowns, according to MaxPreps.com.
Additionally, Irwin recorded 5,258 receiving yards and saw 285 catches. He averaged 18.5 receiving yards and 103.3 receiving yards per game.
In 2015, Irwin signed to Stanford as a wide receiver. According to Stanford Athletics, he was a three-time academic Pac-12 honorable mention and had 152 receptions for 1,738 yards and five touchdowns in 53 career games. Irwin also had 22 punt returns for 230 yards, averaging 10.5 yards per return.
At Stanford, Irwin was an athlete and excelled in his studies, majoring in science, technology, and society. He plans to use his degree after football to help wildlife ecosystems and continue to help young athletes achieve their athletic goals.
“I love helping kids in sports, and it’s part of my passion to nurture that kid’s energy and help kids in sports,” Irwin said. “Plus, I want to be a part of animal conservation, especially with the big cats.”
When Irwin joined the NFL, he temporarily moved to Miami to play for the Dolphins. He liked the fishing grounds but said it was a completely different party atmosphere and wet environment than Los Angeles.
Irwin then joined the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad in December 2019. The culture shock was significant for Irwin in Cincinnati because, although it is a big city, it feels like a small town compared to someone from Santa Clarita and Los Angeles, according to Irwin.
“I think the coolest thing about Cincinnati is just the people, who have that Midwestern feel,” Irwin said. “You’ll have a five-minute conversation in the elevator with strangers you’ve never met, and they’re just good people living their lives.”
Irwin said he still hasn’t tried Cincinnati’s signature Skyline Chili — a chili topped with onions and cheddar cheese under a bed of spaghetti. He still doesn’t know if he will try the famous dish.
In September 2021, Irwin was signed to the Bengals’ active roster and received his first professional catch for a 25-yard gain against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“It’s me trying to grow, to add value, to learn more about the beast and the NFL,” Irwin said. “It’s been a blessing and I’ve worked my way up,” Irwin said. “My goal is just to keep improving and to keep doing what I can do.”
Irwin says he lives hand to mouth. He focused on what he wanted to be when he was in high school. However, years passed, so he focused on the short-term steps that eventually got him to where he is now.
This season, the Bengals started as an underdog. If the Bengals win the Super Bowl, he’s back in Cincinnati for a potential parade, but after that he heads back to Santa Clarita and focuses on sports camps for the kids.
“If you look at us in the betting odds, we weren’t very likely to make the Super Bowl, and now we are,” Irwin said. “It’s been a hell of a season with a lot of great guys.”