Just over a year ago, senior linebacker Patrick Trahan was simply trying to reacquaint himself with the rigors of SEC football.
After playing in 12 games as a redshirt freshman at Auburn in 2006 and recording 11 tackles, Trahan moved on to Northwest CC, where he earned Second Team All-American status. He totaled 96 tackles, 14 losses, six sacks, four forced fumbles and one interception that year, before signing with Ole Miss in February of 2008.
But as a late arrival to training camp in August due to academics, Trahan had some catching up to do. While the mental aspect of the college level wasn't an issue, getting back into game shape certainly was.
"The biggest thing was my conditioning, but I thought I'd be able to shake that." he said. "I asked people about how I was early last year and they told me I was looking bad out there. I was mentally caught up, but I wasn't there physically."
And it showed.
While all could see the raw potential in Trahan, the 2008 season was a bit up-and-down for the 6-foot-3, 225 pounder. As the game weeks flew by, Trahan only saw minimal contributions, notching tackle totals of three or less in the Rebels' first four games.
Although drawing the first start of his Ole Miss career against Florida, Trahan recorded merely two tackles. However, over the season's final stages, Trahan transformed.
A season-high seven tackles against in-state rival Mississippi State set the tone, before Trahan exploded in his second start against Texas Tech in the 73rd Annual Cotton Bowl Classic.
"I guess after Arkansas game, everything was clicking on all cylinders," Trahan said of when he began to see a turnaround in his game. "(Strength and conditioning) Coach (Don) Decker did a great job, as he did this summer, with my workouts. He helped me get back in shape.
"As the season went on, I got better and better. As a whole defense, we got better too. We continued that into the spring and it's all a culmination to this season. We're getting better."
Pegged as the starting Will linebacker heading into the team's season opener against Memphis, Trahan is a new man this fall.
Despite spending much of last season as the backup to now-departed Ashlee Palmer, Trahan has emerged as the vocal leader of the linebacker corps. He heads the group in drills, joining Allen Walker and Jonathan Cornell to form one of the more underrated units in the conference.
But it's been a long time coming for the Baton Rouge, La. native.
"I just really want to go out there, have a good year and do my best," said Trahan. "Whatever happens, happens. As long as I go out there and do my best, I'll be happy. I just took last season as motivation. I don't ever want to be that type of player again. I want to be a leader."
So far, Trahan is doing just that.
With the arrival of talented frosh Joel Kight and D.T. Shackelford, Trahan has gone from follower to mentor, helping the pair learn the ins-and-outs of everyday life in the SEC.
"It's a transition. When you're a senior in high school, you're playing on a totally different level," Trahan said of the jump from high school. "You're a man among boys. When you get to this level, you're stepping into a level where everyone is about the same. You have to adjust to that. Once you do, that's when you see the improvement."
The freshmen have impressed early, as Trahan said if the two continue in their development, they'll be able to contribute immediately.
"They look really good," he said. "Kight is really good. Everything he's doing is good. D.T. looks great; he's just got to slow down a little bit. He's a little anxious right now. Other than that, they look really, really good.
"Those two guys, along with Lekenwic (Haynes), Jason Jones and Brandon Sanders – we really need them to hit the ground running. Even if there are no significant injuries, the starters can't play every snap. They need to be able to step in. Even more, me and (Lamar) Brumfield are leaving after this season. They need to be prepared when it's their time to step up."
For Trahan, 2009 offers a unique opportunity.
Not only is he in great shape compared to last year, but Trahan has settled into his comfort level within the Rebel defense.
The optimism surrounding the team's chances are felt by the talented senior. However, like his teammates, Trahan remains "unsatisfied."
"Everybody has bought in. We know we can win and what we're capable of," Trahan said. "We see where (head) Coach (Houston) Nutt is leading us. We're all in. It was "one heartbeat" last year and we've brought that into this year. We're unsatisfied. We all understand what we're here for."
Time to Shine
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