MENTOR, Ohio — For years, young players have been flocking to the football field at Mentor High School for a camp in the summer, looking to be future Mentor Cardinals football players.
Once upon a time, Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky was one of those players. His mother Jeanne said at this week’s camp that he never missed a session as a young quarterback and running back. Now, his name is on it.
“It’s just something I looked forward to every year as a kid, and now coming back, I know the kids look forward to it,” Trubisky said after the close of the three-day camp on Wednesday.
Trubisky threw passes to players, made push-up wagers, tried a trick shot (he missed), gave a speech, took photographs, and signed more autographs than any human being ever should in a short amount of time. If he shows up to training camp with a sore wrist, we’ll know why.
But Trubisky loves giving back to the kids that are in the same place he was growing up, and Mentor is the kind of special place that keeps people coming back. The group broke down their huddles all week with a chant of “Mentor pride!” You can see it in their leader.
“It’s a way for me to come back, get back to my hometown and just be around the kids in the community,” Trubisky said. “So it’s always a fun week coming back. I just love to share the game that taught me so much with these young kids out here.”
Perhaps somewhere in the crowd is another NFL player that will one day want his name on the camp, and Trubisky seems fine with that idea. For him, it’s all about the kids, the team and the community of Mentor.
“The guys you grow up playing elementary, middle school, and then high school with, it really is like a brotherhood,” he said. “It’s a tight knit community. I couldn’t imagine grownup anywhere else. And it’s a just a great community to be a part of.”
It’s also a place that appreciates its football. At one point the largest school district in Ohio, it’s a little smaller now, but Jerome T. Osborne St. Stadium, which seats over 7,000, will still be full on Fridays this fall. Trubisky’s camp couldn’t use the facility this year because it’s being renovated. He called it “hallowed ground.”
He’s not far off. Lee Tressel, the father of legendary Ohio State head coach Jim Tressell, led the Cardinals to 34 consecutive wins in the 1950s. Trubisky’s coach, Steve Trivisonno, retired in 2019 after leading Mentor to the state playoffs 15 times in 22 seasons with a 205-69 record while playing in Ohio’s top classification.
There’s a reason for that success, and a reason for the pride, and it’s being passed down from one generation to the next in the hot Ohio summer.
“See you next year,” one young camper said to Trubisky after he finished the three day camp with a photo, an autograph and — perhaps most importantly — an ice cream bar.
“It’s cool to come back here in Mentor for a week and do this for the kids,” Trubisky said.
In some ways, it’s a pretty fitting name for the town.