IOWA CITY, Iowa - Louis Trinca-Pasat delivered a dominating performance in Iowa's Week 1 win against UNI Saturday. It almost never happened.
People outside the program watch games and witness what the coaches hope is a finished product. They don't see the process that placed the players in that position.
A small percentage of athletes enter Iowa ready to produce right away. The rest grind mentally and physically with the goal of developing into contributors. They often learn when older players dominate them in practice.
Trinca-Pasat fell into the latter group. He arrived in Iowa City at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds from Lane Tech High in Chicago. He was a far cry from being the defensive tackle that produced 10 tackles (four for loss) and two sacks in a 31-23 win against UNI last weekend.
In December of 2011, Trinca-Pasat considered quitting the sport. He returned home and pondered his future.
"It was a time where I didn't know where I wanted to be, exactly. I didn't know what I really wanted to do," he said.
Trinca-Pasat was questioning whether or not he belonged in the game.
"I didn't have much confidence. I'm very competitive. So when I can't perform and I keep getting constantly beat, beat, beat, it kind of just took a mental toll on me. I started to doubt. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to play defensive tackle," he said.
Trinca-Pasat, now listed at 284 pounds, had company in his struggles. Fellow starting D-Tackle and fifth-year senior Carl Davis wondered at times if he was cut out for Division-I football.
"I knew I wanted to be here. I had a lot of adversity and I wasn't mature enough to play. I didn't know what was going to happen," said Davis, who earned first-team all-Big Ten honors last season and now is considered a high-round prospect in next year's NFL Draft.
With thoughts of doubt rolling through this mind, Davis allowed Trinca-Pasat time to figure out what he wanted.
"I just let him have his space. I just remember not seeing him for like a week. He was going to be done. But I know Louie's not a quitter," Davis said.
Shortly after the '11 regular-season ended, Trinca-Pasat met with head coach Kirk Ferentz in his office. He was down in the dumps.
“He had gone home and came in and said, basically, he wasn’t sure about playing. I thought it was a mistake, certainly, so I encouraged him to take a couple of days away from it. I think he missed two practices," Ferentz said.
Trinca-Pasat was raised by hard-working Romanian parents, Estera and Vasile. They came to the United States desiring more for their children. Louis was the only one among his four siblings born in America.
The family listened to their youngest child's concerns back in December of '11. Then, Estera and Vasile hit him with hard, cold facts.
"It essentially came down to my parents couldn't afford to pay for college. If I would have left, I probably would have got a job somewhere at McDonald's. Who knows? Once my dad told me that I had a great opportunity, I just kind of sat back, took it one step at a time and learned to embrace it," Trinca-Pasat said.
After the '11 Insight Bowl, Trinca-Pasat returned home to recharge and refocus.
"When I came back for winter workouts I said I'm going to give it one last shot and do the best I can and just live with the outcome. I was fortunate to do well and improved and I was able to earn a spot," he said.
Trinca-Pasat, who's combination Romanian-Chicago accent sounds somewhat like a cross between a central European and John Belushi, continued working with strength coach Chris Doyle, watching film and honing his technique.
"Eventually it came down to me keeping grinding. Coach Ferentz always says that everything you do you're putting in the bank. All those little things I did from freshman year, sophomore year, added up and eventually I was able to start performing better," he said.
Trinca-Pasat progressed fast enough to earning a starting spot in '12, when he recorded 40 tackles (four for loss). Last fall, he posted 38 stops (eight for loss) with a sack in earning honorable-mention all-Big Ten honors for conference coaches and media.
"I love Louie," Davis said. "He's a great guy, very intense. We've got great chemistry on the inside. We have a bunch of calls we can make. They might be fake calls. We have fun at practice. I really feel like we complement each other well. I trust him a lot."
Trinca-Pasat brings a streak of 26 consecutive starts into Saturday's game against Ball State (2:30 p.m. Ct, ESPN2). It's the longest run among current Hawkeyes.
Now the veteran, Trinca-Pasat is showing younger players in the program that there's light at end of the tunnel if you stick with it. He's glad he did.
"I love the game so much. I'm so glad that I'm here. I'm able to help guys out. I'm able to help this team out and play the game I love. That's what it all comes down to," he said.