'I can't lose': Former TCU football guard and Michigan native talks about Fiesta Bowl loyalty

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Justin Trejo is about as Texan as it gets, at least on the surface.

He played football at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth from 2008 to 2012 during the Horned Frogs’ rise to national prominence. After earning degrees in communications and Spanish, he continued working in the Dallas area. Like any good Texan, he’s still involved in football, coaching at WT White High School in Dallas.

When you ask if he identifies as a Texan, however, the Detroit native declines the question.

“I’m still a Michigander,” he said. “I can’t say I’m from Texas. I’m a factory worker and I’m from Detroit. There is no doubt about it.”

Trejo also grew up a fan of Michigan football, which complicated things on December 31, when his Horned Frogs faced the Wolverines in the College Football Playoff Semifinals at the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl. This pulls on both of your loyalties.

“I can’t lose in this game,” he said. “I get to see two teams play that I am super passionate about.”

Trejo was born and raised in the Eight Mile Wyoming neighborhood on the west side of Detroit to parents Michael and Elzbieta. His dad played football at San Jose State, and Trejo soon developed dreams of playing in college as well.

Like many Michiganders with football field dreams, Trejo gravitated towards the Michigan Wolverines. He remembers a childhood visit to Michigan Stadium as a pivotal moment in his fandom.

“It’s a monument to football,” he said. “I thought I liked football, I thought I liked him, and when you finally see it, you understand.”

When Trejo became a 6-foot-1, 250-pound offensive lineman, his family briefly moved to St. Louis. Paul, Minnesota to finish his high school career. He thought about continuing to Michigan, but admitted he didn’t get into the school.

“So I packed my bags, took a chance and went to TCU,” he said, adding that the University of Fort Worth was very supportive of Hispanic students like him.

See more information: TCU preview, Michigan’s opponent in the College Football Playoff semifinals

Trejo was the only Michigan native during his time at TCU, he said. This year’s Horned Frogs also lack a Michigan native, as the roster only shows a handful of players who hail from the Midwest.

He still “loved too much” his time at TCU and formed “a brotherhood” with his teammates. The campus is beautiful, he said, with flowers always “arranged” and a huge Christmas tree opened right after Thanksgiving.

“It’s a different aesthetic compared to UM, but it’s very beautiful,” he said.

Trejo played for TCU during the program’s rise to national prominence under former head coach Gary Patterson. The Horned Frogs were 54-11 when Trejo was on the team, winning the 2011 Rose Bowl against Wisconsin to end an undefeated season.

Although he grew up loving Michigan, he is fond of noting that he won more Rose Bowls than the Wolverines during his college career in a conference that rarely happens in the game.

“My claim to fame is that I’m a Midwestern guy and I won the Rose Bowl, and I wasn’t even in the Big 10,” he said.

Though Trejo, who grew into a 6-foot, 300-pound point guard, has only seen a few snaps during his career, he is proud to be a part of building the program into one that ended up making its first college football playoff this season. year.

“Football at TCU is waking up early every day, working out in the weight room,” he said. “Learning that if you continue to build and invest in yourself and invest in the program, you will eventually help build what we have now.”

When the Fiesta Bowl rolls around on New Year’s Eve, Trejo hopes Wolverine and Horned Frog fans get along. His childhood sweetheart will clash with the show that helped shape him into the man he is today, and he said this will make for a perfect viewing experience for him.

“I can’t be upset,” he said. “I’m rooting for TCU, but I won’t be upset if Michigan wins too.”

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