OLIVER MCKENNA | THE DAILY EVERGREEN
As the saying goes, like father, like son.
That’s the case for Trey Tinsley, who followed in his dad Scott’s footsteps by playing quarterback at a Pac-12 school.
Scott played at University of Southern California from 1978 to 1982 and went undrafted in the 1983 NFL draft. He was then signed by the Los Angeles Rams and was on and off the team for several years before finding his way to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1987, where he played three games while NFL players were on strike.
“Just growing up knowing my dad played,” Trey said, “I always wanted to play.”
Scott wasn’t willing to take credit for Trey developing an interest in the quarterback position, but he said he remembers his son participating in nearly every sport he did growing up.
“I’d like to say I had something to do with it but who knows,” he said.
But Trey’s journey to Pullman and this conference was much different than Scott’s.
The redshirt junior quarterback started playing pee-wee football at about age 10. As he continued participating in the sport, it became a habit and a significant part of his life. From fourth grade to his senior year of high school, thoughts of when workouts were and when practice started filled his mind every waking second.
Once Trey began looking to continue playing football after college, he didn’t see much interest.
Eastern Washington University reached out, but it didn’t work. He received an offer from Southern Utah University which he declined. Off and on he talked to Eric Mele, the current running backs coach at WSU, but nothing came out of it.
“I think [Trey] felt he should have gotten more activity getting recruited,” Scott said. “I told him if you still want to get in that route, you probably need to go to junior college.”
So Trey followed his dad’s advice. He decided junior college would be the best bet for a chance to play for a Division I school and fulfill his dream of taking snaps under center for a team in the Pac-12.
After throwing for 2,182 yards and 13 touchdowns in one season at Fullerton College in California, Trey transferred to WSU to play under Head Coach Mike Leach and his pass-heavy system.
“The Air Raid is like a quarterback’s dream,” Trey said. “If you want to throw the ball, there is no better place to go.”
Trey didn’t have to adjust to a completely new system with the Cougars due to his experience with the spread offense in high school, but he had to learn new signals and verbiage.
He said it took him about a year and a half to get comfortable with the new offense, but once he did it became second nature to him.
When Trey decided to come to Pullman, the coaching staff told him if he worked hard enough and proved himself on the field, he would have the chance to potentially start at some point.
This spring, the opportunity to earn the starting role became a reality for Trey, and it wasn’t something he took lightly.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamed about,” he said. “As a little kid you always dream about playing in front of thousands of people.”
So throughout the summer, Trey battled fellow redshirt junior quarterback Anthony Gordon and graduate transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew II for the starting job.
Despite the competition between the three, Trey said they all maintained a close relationship and would pump each other up if they made an amazing throw or play in practice.
Ultimately Minshew won the job, but Trey still has had the opportunity to take the field in every game this season serving as the team’s placeholder, just like he did his redshirt sophomore season.
Scott said Trey has embraced the responsibility of being the holder and takes advantage of every opportunity he gets on the field.
“It’s like a thankless job you know,” he said. “It’s supposed to be done unless it’s screwed up, then everybody notices.”
Trey said he just wants to do anything to strengthen the Cougars’ chances of winning, even if that includes letting someone else be the starter.
“I want whoever is going to help us win be the guy,” Trey said. “If it’s not me then it’s not me, and I’ll do whatever it takes to help our team get better.”
Scott said it was tough when they found out Trey wasn’t going to start, but he understood that only one person could win the job and Minshew earned it.
“Everybody wants to play,” he said, “but you can only play one and Coach Leach doesn’t make the wrong decision very often.”
One player who had a big impact on Trey when he first arrived on campus was Tyler Hilinski. Trey said he and Gordon asked Hilinski questions in their first year with the team to avoid bothering Falk, but eventually Hilinski’s personality brought the quarterback room closer together.
“[Hilinski] was kind of like the glue because after that first season when we were here,” he said, “he was always bugging [Falk] and making [Falk] more talkative with us.”
Trey said Hilinski was a great leader and friend.
“We miss him every single day,” he said. “There’s not a day that goes by where we’re not thinking about Klink.”
This season, Trey is hoping the Cougars win the Pac-12 Championship and earn a shot to play in “The Granddaddy of Them All,” the Rose Bowl.
No matter what happens during the rest of his time in Pullman, Trey said he’s glad he chose to come to WSU.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to go to school anywhere else.”