Throughout his football career, Dominick Trautz was never the top dog, the main man, the head honcho, the big cheese. In fact, he was nothing more than an also-ran.
Even on the Pop Warner youth level a few years ago in his native North Bergen, Trautz was nothing more than a backup quarterback.
“We played the Wing-T and I basically backed up the first string guy,” Trautz said. “That was my job.”
When Trautz entered North Bergen High School, it was more of the same. Last year, as a sophomore, Trautz saw very limited action as the Bruins made a remarkable march to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV state championship.
“I was strictly on the JV [junior varsity],” Trautz said. “I got in for a couple of snaps against Memorial, but that was basically to hand off. I fumbled a snap against Bayonne, so that put me in trouble. I did play some on special teams, but I was the starting quarterback on the JV.”
When legendary head coach Vince Ascolese retired after last season, former Bruins standout Czar Wiley was eventually given the reins to run the Bruins.
One of the first things Wiley did as head coach was turn the quarterback position over to Trautz.
“The first thing we did was put every player’s name up on a board with a position where we could use them the best,” Wiley said. “I thought Dominick was the quarterback. I knew he could throw the ball. Even though he had no varsity experience coming into this year, I always had faith in him.”
Wiley was also instituting a new offensive scheme, the same up-tempo spread offense that is used by University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly.
Kelly coached Wiley during Wiley’s collegiate days at the University of New Hampshire.
That news was golden in Trautz’s eyes.
“Oregon is my favorite team and I love their offense,” Trautz said. “I watch them a lot on television. I worked hard throughout the offseason getting ready. I threw the ball every day, through the snow, the rain, the hail.”
Trautz sounds more like the friendly neighborhood mailman.
“I did,” Trautz said. “I was getting this tremendous opportunity. I never thought I’d be in this spot.”
Wiley knew that his first decision as a head coach, to make Trautz the starting quarterback, was the right one.
“I just liked his personality,” Wiley said. “He has such passion for the game. He’s willing to learn and such a great kid. He had that look in his eyes that he wanted this more than anything. I had a feeling he was going to be something special.
Added Wiley, “The first thing we asked him was whether he could handle it. I told him he’d have a lot of responsibility, making checks at the line and reads. He was willing to do it. I knew he would have to do a lot of learning on the run.”
Trautz embraced the responsibility.
“He would come and watch film all the time,” Wiley said. “It’s not an easy offense to learn. We took baby steps with him in the beginning, but once we saw he was getting a grasp of the offense, we gave him a little more.”
Trautz had no idea how intricate the offensive set was going to be.
“I never knew that there were so many reads on every play, like there are five other reads to the original play,” Trautz said. It was a new offense for me, so I had to learn.”
Trautz gives a lot of credit to assistant coach Wayne Giordano, a former Bruin quarterback in his own right.
“He really helped me get the reads down and I became very confident because of it,” Trautz said.
Trautz has handled running the Bruins offense with ease. As a junior, he’s playing like an experienced senior. One would never know that this all started in June, when Wiley got the job.
Last weekend, Trautz enjoyed the best passing game of any quarterback in North Bergen history. He completed 20 of 29 passes for an astounding 417 yards, the top passing total in New Jersey for the week, and two touchdowns in the Bruins’ thrilling 34-32 victory over Bayonne.
It’s the highest passing yardage total ever by a Bruin QB by almost 200 yards.
For his efforts, Trautz has been selected as The Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Wiley said that he was a little surprised with Trautz’s development.
“I didn’t expect him to be outright spectacular,” Wiley said. “But he’s doing a great job. He’s executing well. We’re a very young team, but we’re coming together now. Dominick is aware of what’s going on now. It’s great to see.”
And since he’s only a junior, Trautz has another year to develop.
“That’s the best part about it,” Wiley said. “He’ll have the world at his fingertips next year. It’s going to be fun to see what he becomes. I’m looking forward to the future and see what he does.”
Trautz cannot comprehend his ascension from a second-string signal caller in Pop Warner to the single-game record holder for passing yards in North Bergen history.
“It’s really amazing that I threw for over 400 yards,” Trautz said. “It has been a lot more fun. We can finally give North Bergen running backs a break. I’m receiving some attention and that’s great. It’s boosted my confidence to the maximum. I feel like I’m about eight feet tall and no one can touch me. I’d hate to be a defensive coordinator trying to stop us now.”
Sure sounds like a confident quarterback. And why not? Trautz now has the school record to prove it. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.