TRINITY — Mitchell running back Ricky Trinidad might very well lead the North Suncoast this fall in eye-opening runs, but where most are taken aback by his electrifying moves, those who share the huddle with him aren't.
"Not anymore," Mustangs offensive lineman Ryan Brosnan said.
Having played alongside Trinidad the past few seasons, and in Brosnan's case since they were kids, Trinidad's teammates have seen it all — from his 80-yard bursts to his shakes and spins.
"I've never played with one better," Brosnan said. "All you have to do is open up a little hole, and he finds it."
This season, the line has opened many. And the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Trinidad, a junior, has done the rest.
Entering Friday night's Class 3A, District 7 showdown at home against Land O'Lakes, a game in which the winner clinches a playoff spot, Trinidad has rushed for 1,192 yards — a total that leads Pasco County by a wide margin. He also ranks first in rushing touchdowns with 15.
Now consider this:
Trinidad has done his damage on only 143 carries; he averages 8.3 yards a rush.
"I don't see solo tackles on Ricky," said Hudson coach Mark Nash. "It would take a man to tackle him solo. If you don't get 11 hats on him, he's going to make you pay."
The key to Trinidad's success is no great mystery. It's that he does everything rather well.
"I'm pretty versatile," Trinidad said.
That's an understatement.
For starters, he is faster than most of those trying to tackle him. Last spring, he was a member of Mitchell's 4x400 conference champion relay squad in addition to being a standout in the 200 meters (he was a second-team all-county pick).
"He has elite speed," Nash said.
And even better moves, one could argue.
"I've never seen a running back that can cut as fast as he can and accelerate from 0 to 60 as fast as he can," Mitchell coach Brian Wachtel said. "He runs with a passion."
Vision is another Trinidad trait. "I see the holes well," he said.
Then there's his toughness.
People talk about his touchdown runs, but Trinidad takes just as much pride in the fact he always fights for extra yards, feet and even inches. His legs don't stop churning until the play is over.
"People say I'm not that physical," Trinidad said. "They think I'm just a speed back. They think if I get hit, I'm going to fold."
Trinidad's greatest assets, however, might not be of the physical nature, but his work ethic and desire to win. In the weight room, Trinidad has committed to getting stronger. In his free time, he runs alone. For meals, he often chugs a protein shake.
Last week, a minor back injury sidelined Trinidad against Pasco, which went on to win the district. He didn't dress for the game (Mitchell's only loss), but at halftime approached his coach and begged to let him put on a uniform and play, if only to give his teammates an emotional lift.
His request was denied, but the message was clear.
"He's a special player," Wachtel said.
Keith Niebuhr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org