Courtesy Colorado Mines athletics
Courtesy Colorado Mines athletics
If Justin Traxinger could do both, he would. Unfortunately, the games overlap and one takes monster priority.
The 6-foot-7, 310-pounder will be playing in the Division II football playoffs Saturday as the starting right tackle for Colorado Mines. The Orediggers take on Ohio Dominican in a first-round contest with a noon kickoff at the North Area Athletic Complex.
An hour later, his former squad, the Longmont Trojans, will get underway with Broomfield in the Class 4A semifinals.
“I usually try to make it to a game every year, but this year I’ve just been hearing about them from back home,” said Traxinger, a 2011 Longmont grad. “With actually being on the field, it’s been tough to make it. But I keep in touch with coach (Doug) Johnson and coach (Eric) Coyle and my dad fills me in on that stuff.”
Traxinger will be making his seventh start of the season for Mines (10-1) and is hoping to lock down the starting job for next season. The timeline to get to this point has required some patience for the petroleum engineering major.
After redshirting his first season, Traxinger never saw the field as a freshman and participated in limited snaps as a sophomore. He was in the mix to start in camp this season — or at least play a significant role — when he endured a concussion in a team scrimmage and was shelved.
But starting tackle C.J. Dickerson endured two injuries, one a wrist ailment that sidelined him for a few weeks and then a knee injury that ended his season. Traxinger has been an eager replacement.
“It’s been incredible,” Traxinger said. “Everyone wants to get on the field and play, and seeing a teammate go down for it to happen is the bad part about it. But I knew I had to step into the role and it’s been fun. I’m out there playing for my teammates, because I know how much this means to the senior class.”
First-year Mines offensive line coach Dustin Washburn sees a wealth of potential in the hulking frame of Traxinger (who might weigh 10 to 20 pounds more than the listed 310), but also knew he was pretty green by college standards.
“I always had confidence in ‘Trax’ that if I had to put him in, he could step into that role and probably do a pretty good job,” Washburn said. “This is a funny game. When you ask a kid who hasn’t contributed a lot to step into a role, he grows up fast. That’s what Trax did.”
Washburn said Traxinger is quickly beginning to flourish in his role as the right tackle. At practice, he is steadily improving and aiming to perfect his craft. But that being said, there is still a lot of work to be done.
“Trax has ability because he’s so big and long and is very strong on the football field,” Washburn said. “But one thing I’d like to see from Justin is him improving his lower half, the way he moves his feet, how strong he is in his legs.”
Washburn is challenging Traxinger to concentrate on those aspects in the offseason. If he can become more nimble and balanced while improving strength, Washburn believes, “that kid has a chance to move forward, maybe even get a shot a somebody’s camp past college.”
While Traxinger undoubtedly will be keeping tabs on Longmont from afar Saturday, the Trojans still have him in their thoughts as well.
“Justin is a quiet, polite, respectful kid who is probably going to be the best tackle that league has ever seen,” Johnson said. “I would never — and I mean never — bet against that young man in anything that he does. On the field, he is athletic, physical, and smart.”
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