Trevor Guyton saw the ball.
It had been knocked out of the opposing quarterback’s hand. It fell to the ground, then bounced right in his path.
The defensive end surged to the ball, snagged it and ran it 18 yards into the end zone for the touchdown.
“It was really just doing my job (and) good things happen when you do your job,” says Guyton, whose score helped the Cal football team defeat Fresno State, 36-21, on Sept. 3.
“When I see it open like that, I gotta get it. WIT, do whatever it takes to get that ball and get it into the end zone.”
It was his first touchdown – not just of the year or his Cal career, but ever. Then again, he didn’t start playing football until eighth grade.
Trevor Guyton had a different mindset. Back then, he wasn’t starting for the Bears or thinking about following his two predecessors on the D-line to the NFL. He wasn’t even playing football necessarily for the future — just the present.
“Trevor is a thinking person,” his father Odell says. “(Football) had to come to him in the way it does.
“He is a doer and not a dreamer.”
Guyton wanted to play football as a kid, but wasn’t allowed since the local youth football teams went by weight, not age.
“Trevor was a big guy and we didn’t want him to play with kids a lot older than he was,” his mother Karen says. “His bones weren’t strong enough yet. He was a lot younger. We just never let him play.”
By the time he entered high school, Guyton had not yet developed a fierce fire for football. He did not necessarily see football as his calling, as his future.
But he had the size, speed and potential to play at the next level. In fact, he was offered a scholarship after his sophomore year of high school — before he had even taken a varsity snap.
His squad at Redmond High School, located just east of Seattle, had traveled to Washington State for a team camp, and Guyton was named the MVP.
“He came on as well as I’ve ever seen,” says Mike Pluschke, his high school football coach. “All of a sudden he had a first step faster than seniors.
Guyton laughs when he thinks about it. He says he was shocked — “I had never thought about going to college for football” — when then Washington State head coach Bill Doba offered him a scholarship on the spot.
His parents did not believe him. Not that he wasn’t good. He had a “lot of ability there giving kids concussions there by just hitting them,” Odell says.
“I thought he misunderstood,” Karen says. “It really wasn’t until they sent the paperwork, it was official.”
He had the potential, but did he have the mindset? His high school coach never doubted him, especially not after his showing at Washington State.
“All of a sudden, this young man has the world in his palm,” Pluschke says. “He can have whatever he wants.”
What he wanted, in part, was a school with strong academics and less rain than Seattle. He found that at Cal.
“(Football) enabled him to move on into college even though I don’t think he knew what kind of a career goal he had,” Karen Guyton says. “At least having football gave him next step.”
Dreams of playing in the NFL were still yards away.
Behind future first-round NFL draft picks Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan on the depth chart, Guyton didn’t see the field much his first two years, but what he learned from the veterans was invaluable.
So too, Guyton thought, was playing time. He burned his redshirt freshman year, but was “still just not there mentally yet,” he laments.
“I kind of went through the motions and I still loved the game and still played hard, but as far as my passion for it, it wasn’t where it is now,” he says.
His mom admitted that his first year was a big adjustment.
“I’m not sure he was ready to be invested in his future,” she says. “It was a way to step through to the next part of his life. I think it was maybe after the second year that he felt he could run with this and take it to the next level.”
Despite not being named a starter, Guyton still figured to see regular playing time his junior year. Yet a high ankle sprain caused him to miss the middle of 2010.
Once he finally got healthy, though, it all seemed to click. He earned his first career start at Washington State, where it all began for him. He led the squad with two and a half sacks and was second with seven tackles in Cal’s Nov. 6 win. He started the season’s remaining three games, a role he has solidified in 2011.
Last week against Colorado, he tallied five tackles and came up especially big late. The Buffs were first-and-goal from the four-yard line in overtime and Guyton was able to break through the offensive line on consecutive plays to halt the running back. Colorado was forced to kick a field goal, allowing the Bears to win the game on the following drive.
With his intensified focus, Guyton is finally showing his true potential.
“His (original) goal was just getting a college education and this was a way to do it,” his mom says. “Now he’s getting ready to graduate and thinking about the NFL.”
Karen Guyton isn’t sure of her son’s future. Neither is Trevor, but he has aspirations to play in the NFL. If his two predecessors can, why not him?
“Why shouldn’t I have those expectations for myself?” he says. “Thanks to those guys who’ve proven that you don’t have to be that physical freak … I feel like I’m definitely in the picture and I can be there by the end of this year.”
His father says it boils down to his passion, at an all-time high.
“It had to come to him in the way it did,” he says. “He really wants it. He wants to be a pro football player.”
Trevor Guyton has the opportunity.
Take it. Seize it. Run with it.
Just like he did with that football against Fresno State.
He’ll end up in another end zone.