Plain Dealer file photo Jason Trusnik at Nordonia High.
Plain Dealer file photo Jason Trusnik at Nordonia High.

By Victor Milani

Jason Trusnik was born on June 6, 1984.

When Jason Trusnik was a slightly built quarterback and freshman who wrestled at 112 pounds at Nordonia High School, football coach Al Huge didn’t see professional football in the kid’s future.

Jason was a state wrestling qualifier in 2002 at 189lbs. In football for the Knights, Trusnik was a 2nd team defensive All-WRC selection his senior year at Nordonia High School. He was

Voted “Knight of the week” twice during senior season (2002) and accumulated respectable Senior stats- Solo tackles-44, Assist tackles-25, Total tackles-69, Fumble recoveries-8, Sacks-5, QB hurries-3. Trusnik claims that his future in college football was enhanced when Nordonia coaches Bruce Rardin and Al Huge changed him from a quarterback to lineman his senior year.

By the time Trusnik (who graduated from Nordonia in 2002) filled out to 6-feet-5, 250 pounds as an All-America defensive end at Division III Ohio Northern in 2007, Huge thought there was potential.

And when Trusnik joined the Browns, thanks to a trade that sent Braylon Edwards to the New York Jets, Al Huge saw exactly how his former Nordonia High School standout defensive player would fit in with the team he grew up cheering for as a child in Macedonia.

“It’s an obvious attempt to get quality people involved,” Huge said. “He can play the game, for sure and is a quality guy. Jason Trusnik a hard-working guy who’s going to do all the right things”

Jason Trusnik was developing as a player who was dominant at the Division III level for Ohio Northern. He was a two-time All-America and two-time All-Ohio Athletic Conference selection. He finished his senior season with 60 tackles and a team-high 11 sacks. He is ONU’s all-time sack leader with 43. Additionally, he played in the Texas vs. The Nation Game for ‘The Nation’ team and was named a co-captain for Team USA in the Aztec Bowl. Trusnik was the Division 3 Defensive player of the year as a junior!

As the tackles began piling up for Trusnik in college, word began to spread of Trusnik‘s talent. Though he was undrafted, Trusnik had several teams interested in signing him, according to ONU coach Dean Paul. Trusnik felt he’d receive the most opportunities with the Jets initially.

“The thing about Jason is whenever he’s given an opportunity, he just seems to excel,” Paul said. “That’s the reason he made the team with the Jets, that’s the reason why he played for them, and that’s the reason why he played and has done well for all the NFL teams he has played for.”

images (22)Jason Trusnik was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2007 by the New York Jets. Jets (and former Browns) head coach Eric Mangini liked what he saw in Trusnik. As a rookie, he appeared in six games and recorded six tackles on special teams after spending the first nine weeks on their practice squad. He made his NFL debut in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 18. Trusnik was placed on injured reserve on December 26.

In 2008, Trusnik played in seven games and was inactive for two. He also had spent the first seven games of the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Trusnik made five tackles and a fumble recovery on defense as well as 11 tackles on special teams.

In 2009, Trusnik played in the first four games of the season with the Jets. He was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after his game against Tennessee on September 27, where he had two tackles, a forced fumble, and fumble recovery. Trusnik was then traded to the Cleveland Browns.

On October 7, 2009, Trusnik was traded to the Cleveland Browns by the New York Jets in exchange for wide receiver Braylon Edwards. He played the remainder of the 2009 season with the Browns, where he started 10 games and played in 12. During this time, Trusnik registered 54 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and one pass defended. His first start of his NFL career came on October 18 in a game at Pittsburgh. Trusnik made a career-high 10 tackles on November 29 in Cincinnati. The Browns finished the season with the best kickoff return average starting position (31.4) in the NFL with Trusnik as a blocker.

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In 2010, Trusnik played in all 16 games for the Browns, starting five. He registered 15 tackles, one sack, and one pass defended. He played mostly on special teams where he had nine tackles.

On July 27, 2011, the Miami Dolphins signed Trusnik to a 2-year deal. He was with the Dolphins for four seasons, starting 10 games and playing in 48.

In 2014, Trusnik caught his first career interception from a Tom Brady pass on December 14. He also scored his first touchdown off of a fumble recovery against the Jets.

On March 31, 2015, the Carolina Panthers signed Trusnik to a 1-year deal as an unrestricted free agent. His prowess as a special team standout has allowed Trusnik a long NFL Career.

Trusnik is not a small guy, standing at 6’5″ and 250 lbs., which demonstrates his ability to take the run and gun nature of special teams.

So why is Trusnik special? Carolina Special teams coach Bruce DeHaven has a special term he uses for special teams players who play on the kickoff and kickoff return teams, as well as the punt and punt return teams. The phrase – the “Big 4”. Well, DeHaven might need to coin a new phrase, possibly “the 6th man”, as Trusnik contributed in all six phases of special teams – kickoff and kickoff return teams, punt and punt return teams and field goal protection and field goal block teams. Not only does Trusnik play all of them, he plays all of them with a passion and enjoyment

“I’ve played ‘em all. I’ve been in all six for quite a bit of time, especially all four years in Miami. I enjoy playing them all”

images (12)Unfortunately on September 5, 2015, Trusnik‘s Carolina journey ended when he was released. Perhaps the timing of the release was a blessing as wife Nicole gave birth to their third child Tatum. Trusnik was able to be present for the delivery!

On November 10, 2015, the Minnesota Vikings signed Trusnik. He had previously worked with Vikings defensive coordinator, George Edwards while in Miami. Trusnik played in his first playoff game a few weeks ago in brutal Minnesota conditions. A missed chip shot field goal by kicker Blair Walsh ended their season against the Seahawks. At press time he is unsure of his NFL future. He wants to play a tenth year, with a return to the Vikings a possibility.

Jason Trusnik has come a long way from the 112 freshmen wrestler that first ventured into the halls of Nordonia High School. His NFL career has led him to five teams. A childhood dream of playing for his hometown team, The Cleveland Browns, was fulfilled. He carved out a successful career as not only a hardnosed linebacker, but a pro bowl caliber special team’s player the past nine years. Jason and his wife Nicole now have three lovely children Austin (5) Ava (2) and Tatum (3 months). They family currently resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, but travel to their Strongsville athletic facility often. Trusnik owns and operates Pro Sports Performance, a full scale athletic training facility in Strongsville, now going into their second year! Former Nordonia Knight and NFL player Kevin Kowalski is on the staff at the center, as well as former Browns punter Reggie Hodges. Trusnik would eventually like to expand a second facility into the Nordonia Hills area. The Trusnik family (father Leonard) has owned Trusnik “s Painting in Nordonia Hills for many years!. I feel it is time that both Jason Trusnik and Kevin Kowalski, two Nordonia graduates who made it to the NFL, are given consideration for induction into the Nordonia High School Athletic Hall of Fame. It would greatly deserved! They would join fellow alumni Rob Sims and Jordon Mabin as the only four Nordonia graduates to ever play in the NFL

‘“As far as whom I looked up to, I would have to say it’d be my dad, Leonard. The people that have helped me along the way would be Coach Rardin and his staff for moving me to defensive end my senior year. This position change allowed me to play and become team MVP at Nordonia. Coach Al Huge was always helping out. In college, Head Coach Dean Paul and Stacey Hairston helped me reach my goals to the NFL. College defensive line coach Glenn Scheutzow was always pushing me. I appreciate the fact that NFL coach Eric Mangini (Jets and then Browns) gave me an opportunity in the NFL, and demanding my best the first couple of years. Lastly, I’d like to thank all my coaches and teammates along the way that have supported me and helped me where I am today. I couldn’t have had the success I have achieved without all of them.”’

. The Nordonia Hills community should be proud of Jason Trusnik, this week’s HOMETOWN HERO!!