Many knew Trenton Irwin as the “football boy” in Santa Clarita 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 preferred to watch football games and work on his catching.
Irwin’s dedication since childhood impressed everyone, including his family, with his focus on the sport. The dedication led Irwin to a storied high school, collegiate and now a professional football career. He will be playing with the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.
Irwin’s father, Craig, was excited and expressed gratitude at how lucky the Irwin family was 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 soccer for Hart and now plays for the University of California, Santa Barbara.
The youngest sibling, Ava, is a 10-year-old and will continue the tradition of attending Hart High School. The Irwins will eventually have a student attending 16 out of 18 years since 2011 uninterrupted, according to Craig.
Craig added he’s proud of his son’s success in the National Football League but is proud of the man Irwin has become. He said Irwin’s urge to help student-athletes get into college, play sports and get a degree is admirable and gives Irwin purpose.
“We often talk about his purpose in life, and that’s helping kids get into college,” Craig said.
Many high school athletes are often told the discouraging statistics of chances to play in college and the likelihood of going to a professional league. The odds are aimed at keeping expectations of student-athletes realistic, but at such an early stage, it can discourage potential, according to Craig.
Craig said that if you put in time and work, you can do it. It’s the same reasoning Irwin has and plans to instill in athletes in his sports camp in Santa Clarita on March 5.
It’s the same Irwin who works with Cincinnati youth for the Saturday Hoops organization, helping to improve their outlook of life, encourage them and build positivity in at-risk youth.
In the off-season, Irwin trains locally and has even helped with the chain gang for Hart football games. His family, friends and school mentors are all in Santa Clarita, and he enjoys coming home.
“My family still lives in Santa Clarita, that’s 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 stays in touch with the athletic organization and the teachers. He prides himself on returning to the class where he learned and talking to teachers who positively impacted him.
Irwin was also an actor in commercials for Kraft Velveeta, Microsoft and other productions. When he missed a football practice for an acting gig, he was made to sit out the first quarter of his first game at Hart. It would be his last acting gig.
The 6-foot-2 Irwin played wide receiver at Hart. During his high school career, he won many honors in the greater Los Angeles area and became a top 100 prospect in California. He completed his senior year with 61 total touchdowns, 57 of those being receiving touchdowns, according to MaxPreps.com.
Additionally, Irwin logged 5,258 yards in receiving and saw 285 catches. He averaged 18.5 yards per catch and 103.3 receiving yards per game.
In 2015, Irwin committed to Stanford as a wide receiver. According to Stanford athletics, he was a three-time Pac-12 academic 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 academics, majoring in science, technology and society. He plans to utilize his degree after football to help wildlife ecosystems and continue to help young athletes achieve their athletic goals.
“I like helping kids in sports, and that’s part of my passion is cultivating that kid energy and helping kids in sports,” Irwin said. “Also, I want to be a part of animal conservation, especially with big cats.”
When Irwin joined the NFL, he temporarily moved to Miami to play for the Dolphins. He enjoyed the fishing spots but said it was a party atmosphere and humid environment completely different from Los Angeles.
Irwin went on to join the practice squad for the Cincinnati Bengals in December 2019. The culture shock was significant for Irwin in Cincinnati because, although it’s a large 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 Midwest feel,” Irwin said. “You’ll have a five-minute conversation on the elevator with strangers you’ve never met, and it’s just good people living their life.”
Irwin said he still hasn’t tried the signature Skyline Chili from Cincinnati — chili topped with onions and cheddar cheese under a bed of spaghetti noodles. He still is unsure 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 been me trying to progress, add value, learning 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 working my way up and keep doing what I can do.”
Irwin said he lives day-by-day. He focused on what he wanted to be when he was in high school. However, it was years out, so he focused on the short-term steps that eventually led 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, he’s coming home to Santa Clarita and focusing on the sports camps for kids.
“If you look at us in the betting odds, we were not 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 dudes.”