Big man on campus

Mark Hazelwood • Updated Nov 19, 2018 at 8:25 PM

NORWALK — The challenges will never go away.

From the time he was in kindergarten, Trey Leroux has always gotten the extra stares from people when he walks into a public place.

Of course, it’s not every day you see a young man at age 17 check in at 6-feet-8, 340 pounds. Especially one who has embraced those numbers, which the Norwalk junior lineman has done his entire life.

“It’s nice having that size and weight,” Leroux said. “I’ve always been big. It’s something I’ve always handled — because I’m used to it. In football, it’s definitely a nice advantage to have.”

As the Norwalk football team prepares to play in Friday’s Division III state semifinals vs. Kettering Alter — just the second-ever appearance in program history among the final four teams — the NCAA Division I recruit Leroux is a big reason behind that success.

Literally and figuratively.

“He’s not a just a 6-8, 340-pound large human,” Norwalk coach Todd Fox said of Leroux. “He does things that kids at 5-10 can’t do. He can do the full splits, he can move and run … we’re at a point now where he’s playing both ways. He is a special athlete, and he is that good.”

Growing up big

Tami Leroux can still remember the phone call.

Trey’s kindergarten teacher had reached out to his mother about what to do when it came to group situations in the class.

“He couldn’t sit at the desk and not raise it up with his knees, and it was frustrating for everyone because he was just so big,” Tami said. “They had to get him a high school desk.”

Trey has had to wear knee braces for years, because he grows so much, the concern for knee problems arises.

“Walking through doorways, I’ve hit my head quite a bit,” Trey said. “You have to watch out for a lot more things like that.”

Shopping for anything has been difficult, but shoes especially. He currently wears a size 17, while all clothing is 2XL or big and tall sizes.

And of course, growing up just 15 miles from one of the top amusement parks in the country was never an option.

“Oh I can’t go to Cedar Point,” Trey said. “There isn’t a single ride there I can do.”

Tami noted there were never any issues or major health concerns growing up, though she does point back to one story when Trey was an infant.

He was an average-sized baby, born at 8 pounds, 6 ounces.

“But when he was two weeks old, it was the first time our pediatrician gave anyone permission to have him start early on cereal,” Tami said. “He would pretty much eat around the clock. He wasn’t satisfied with formula already, so we had to switch to cereal.”

But today, Trey’s eating habits are pretty normal. If anything, older brother, senior defensive end Tche (6-4, 225), who will play at Toledo, eats more than he does. Trey just insists on never skipping any of the three breakfast, lunch or dinner under any circumstances.

“I really don’t eat as much as you would think,” he said. “I gain weight easier than most. I have a very low metabolism, so really just a lot of lean meats, steaks, chicken and broccoli; things like that. I don’t eat anything extra because I can’t afford it — I’ll get too big.”

‘He’s just big’

Another stigma has come from the recruiting process for Leroux.

When powerhouse programs like Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame among others have shown interest, some have dismissed it. A common phrase is that Leroux is only being looked at because of his size.

“It’s people being jealous,” said Norwalk senior receiver Brandon Haraway, who is attending NCAA Div. II Ashland University for basketball. “They like to hate because they’re not the ones getting the attention or invites to go to all those big schools.”

Haraway said while Leroux is blessed to be that big, he’s using it to his advantage.

“He’s not wasting it at all,” Haraway said. “Trey has worked so hard to be the great player that he is right now. He doesn’t sit around. He is constantly going to camps and lifting, and just working extra in general to do what it takes to be great.”

Leroux has heard the same chatter.

“I definitely use it as fuel,” he said. “I always try to work as hard as I can to get where I want to be. So for people who say it’s just because I’m big, I wish they could see what I do to get to that point.

“I can just be big, but there are a lot of people who are just big,” he added. “I want to be better at everything. From lifting and running, I want to keep getting faster and stronger with everything.”

Recruiting process

As the college football season winds down, Leroux has offers from Purdue, Cincinnati and Toledo.

He has also taken unofficial visits on Saturdays this fall to Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame (twice) and Toledo. Those are head-turning experiences for someone from a small community not used to producing that level of talent on a yearly basis.

“It was definitely a little bit shocking when you first get there, but after a few visits, you’re used to it,” Leroux said. “Everyone has everything that you would want to see — so then you start looking at what’s really important, which is the academics and brotherhood they have for their teams, what campus is like, things like that.”

Leroux was a state qualifier in wrestling and a Div. I regional qualifier in throwing during track last school year. However, he would need to cut more than 50 pounds just to make heavyweight.

“I’ll be on the team and still working out, but also doing some indoor track,” he said. “I’ll stay busy trying to keep in shape for football, and probably attending some camps throughout.”

There is no timetable Leroux set for himself on committing prior to signing day for the 2020 class. The recent Northwest District OPSWA Lineman of the Year in Div. III is a three-star recruit and the No. 18-ranked offensive lineman in Ohio according to 247sports.

“I’m not nervous at all,” he said. “Whatever is going to come will come. I just need to play my best and see what’s going to show up by the end of it. I’m happy with how it’s gone so far.”

Meanwhile, his mother says her son will continue to embrace his size. Even when it comes to the grocery store.

“We were shopping at Meijer (in Sandusky) once a couple years ago,” Tami said. “And a little old, short lady didn’t say a word to him. She just grabbed his hand, and had Trey grab what she needed off the top shelf.

“He got it for her, and just went about his business,” she added. “He’s always been so good with it. He just kind of owns it.”

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