WINCHESTER – Good luck finding a more versatile player in Shenandoah University’s football program than sophomore Trammel Anthony.
Anthony, a 2018 graduate of Millbrook High School, was recruited by SU to play on the defensive side of the ball but was moved to receiver upon his arrival last season to fill the Hornets’ need at the position. Last offseason, Shenandoah coaches decided Anthony would be most valuable on defense in 2019, and Anthony moved to the other side of the ball in the spring.
Anthony, whom defensive coordinator Brock McCullough has more than once called the Hornets’ Swiss Army knife, began the season as what head coach Scott Yoder referred to as SU’s “nickel Sam,” an outside linebacker used much like an extra defensive back in passing situations. Injuries have since moved Anthony into a more defined role as a defensive back, where he’s played cornerback and safety depending on the matchup.
Oh, and by the way, Anthony is a two-sport athlete at Shenandoah who also plays on the Hornets’ men’s basketball team.
It’s a challenging way to live the life of a college student-athlete, but Anthony has the personal drive to make it work.
“What Trammel brings to the table is he is a fantastic kid but he works like his life depends on it, and you just don’t see a lot of kids like that anymore,” Yoder said. “I mean he is going. He’s athletic, he’s long, he’s rangy, but he attacks practice and the game like ‘If I don’t play well, there’s not gonna be food on the table.’ And you just don’t run into kids like that as much as maybe you did 10, 20 years ago.”
That work ethic has helped Anthony lay the foundation for what could become a very productive – and very busy – college career across the landscapes of two different sports.
As a freshman on the football field last season, Anthony worked his way into some legit playing time in a talented receiving corps in Division III’s best passing offense and finished with nine receptions for 165 yards.
He moved on to basketball after that, and as a freshman during the 2018-19 season, Anthony played 13.8 minutes per game while averaging 1.8 points and 2.5 rebounds per contest for a struggling program trying to build something under head coach Adam Walsh.
As a sophomore on the gridiron, Anthony has 33 tackles, including 27 solo stops and two tackles for loss, through eight games, and he’ll soon switch once again to basketball mode with the football season nearing its completion.
“It’s very hard because your time management has to be very good,” Anthony said of life as a two-sport athlete, “and then you’ve got to make sure you’re healthy to play both sports, because what good are you if you can’t really play? Those play a big part, and I just try to make sure my grades are always good because with basketball you’re gonna miss classes because you have to leave early and things like that. It’s very time-consuming, I would say, but it’s what I love to do so I’m ready to do it.”
Though Anthony has been shifting through positions on the football field pretty regularly since his arrival at Shenandoah, he’s ended up on the side of the ball that he’d always wanted to play. Yoder recalled Anthony telling SU’s coaches during the recruiting process that he wanted to play defense in college, a statement that Yoder said isn’t often made by recruits who often spit out the line that they’ll play wherever the team needs them.
Anthony, who played both ways for Millbrook’s football team, has proven in his short time with Shenandoah that he too will fill whatever role is asked of him, a point he reiterated this week when he said he “just wanted to play and make our team better.” But his passion is on the defensive side in what Anthony said is an ode to his older brother Nazeeh Johnson, who is a defensive back for Marshall University.
“I’ve always followed in his footsteps,” Anthony said. “He’s very aggressive and that’s how I want to be and that’s how I want to play. That’s why I wear the number 13, because that’s his number. … I want to make my brother proud, so I want to do things how he would. He would want to play defense, plus I was more comfortable on the defensive end anyway.”
That was the case until Shenandoah’s coaches pulled Anthony from offense last spring and told him he’d be playing outside linebacker in 2019 as the Hornets sought to get more athletic defensively. Anthony, not exactly an imposing figure at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, laughed as he recalled looking at his arms – which aren’t very linebacker-like – and thinking, “I don’t really know how you want me to do that, but sure.”
His would be less of the physical run-stopping linebacker role, however, as that job was left for senior Bernie Hayes III. Anthony would instead be used as a linebacker capable of covering opposing receivers while offering occasional help in the run game.
Hornets defensive backs coach Byron Mitchell said having a player with Anthony’s versatility is a “tremendous” asset to SU’s defense.
“First of all, it takes a lot. You need to be coachable; you need to, in my opinion, be a high-character kid and Trammel checks all of those boxes,” Mitchell said. “He does exactly what we ask him to do. He goes above and beyond to be great. He hustles, he flies around. It helps our defense out a lot because there are different weeks when we need to do different things and we need a certain player in a certain spot. The first name we bring up every Monday in our meetings, it seems like it’s Trammel – what are we going to do with Trammel this week? It just allows us to do so much. When he’s at linebacker, obviously he’s not a DB at the time but we’re in what we would call a nickel package with him in the slot, guarding one of the team’s best receivers in the slot. It makes us faster on defense. It makes us smarter because I think Trammel is one of the smartest kids we have on the team. Having him be able to do all those things, it blows my mind because this kid doesn’t flinch. No matter what position we put him in, he doesn’t flinch.”
In one of Anthony’s first games upon moving into a more full-time role in the secondary last month, he drew the tough assignment of lining up one-on-one with Emory & Henry stud receiver Derrick Yates, who is a matchup nightmare at 6-foot-6. Yates entered that Oct. 26 game with 840 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns in six games, but with Anthony shadowing him for most of the afternoon the E&H senior had just three catches for 66 yards.
“If I’m playing pickup basketball like outside on the blacktop, (Anthony’s) my first pick because he’s just gonna be a rugged, rugged competitor that doesn’t care what the situation is,” Yoder said. “That’s how he attacks things, and that’s why he’s really good. And that stuff infects the whole team.”
The basketball analogy is a fitting one considering Anthony will be hitting the hardwood after SU wraps up its football season with next weekend’s home game against Methodist.
Anthony said the adjustment period between sports last year took about a month before he was up to speed with the basketball program, though he’s no longer a freshman preparing for his first season of college basketball and has a better grasp of Walsh’s system.
As far as taking time off between sports to get his legs back under him, Anthony said he has no intention of doing so.
“The trainers say I should take a week off but I would never do that because I just want to get right back into and get rolling because not playing sports is probably the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do,” Anthony said. “I don’t want to do that, so I’ll just jump right back into it to make sure that I’m conditioned because I won’t be able to jump right into basketball when basketball season comes.”
Anthony is still focused on football goals, though, and he wants to help the Hornets (5-3, 4-3 ODAC) win their final two games of the season.
“For the next couple weeks I’m just trying to make sure that our seniors go out on a good note, so I’m trying to win these last two games and make sure the seniors are appreciated and this record is better than it was last year,” he said. “I always want to improve and 7-3 is definitely better than 5-5. I just want to make sure the seniors go out on a good note.”