He had an accomplished career at Notre Dame as a defender and now plays linebacker in the NFL.
And this is a guy who at one time used defense as a chance to rest.
Playing high school football in Indiana, Drue Tranquill starred as a wildcat quarterback, running back and receiver, scoring 33 touchdowns as a senior. In one game, he had 245 yards rushing.
After all that running around on offense, Tranquill attempted to sneak in a few deep breaths from his linebacker position when the Fort Wayne Carroll Chargers switched to defense.
“Defense was where I tried to take a play off or two,” he said. “I was pretty good on offense. Partly, I was just bigger than a lot of my competition. I loved offense. There’s nothing like scoring a touchdown. It’s unreal.”
Now with the Chargers, Tranquill said one of his “bucket list” goals is to revisit the end zone.
During his time at Notre Dame, he intercepted three passes and recovered five fumbles but was never close to scoring.
“I had some turnovers there, ” Tranquill said. “I obviously have to work on my YAC.”
That would be “yards after catch,” something Tranquill, in his actual job, is more interested in preventing.
A fourth-round pick in April, the rookie wrapped up an impressive training camp Thursday in Costa Mesa. Tranquill intercepted a pass in the Chargers’ first preseason game and has shown promise on special teams.
“He has been a beast,” said defensive lineman Isaac Rochell, who also played with Tranquill in college. “I have nothing but great things to say about him. He’s made plays. Just watch the film and you’ll know what type of player he is.”
Since the day he was drafted, the Chargers have praised Tranquill’s instincts and football savvy. A safety early in college, his abilities in pass coverage have stood out.
The Chargers selected small-school, longer-term projects just before (offensive tackle Trey Pipkins) and just after (quarterback Easton Stick) Tranquill. In between, they added the player they expect to contribute immediately.
“He lines up, takes care of the defense, runs the defense and then you don’t see many mental errors from him,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “I think he’s got a really good football IQ.”
Tranquill said he believes his instincts come from a general understanding of football and a passion to excel at it.
Moving from safety to linebacker in college also forced him to expand his knowledge of what the Fighting Irish were trying to do defensively on each snap. Physically gifted at 6 feet 2 and 228 pounds, Tranquill also has an intellectual side to him. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering more than a year ago.
“He showed back in OTAs and minicamp that he was really mature for a rookie,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “I like the way he’s learned our system and the way that he can go into the game and, as a young man, help guys around him.”
Because of a torn knee ligament, Tranquill spent five years at Notre Dame, where he was a two-time captain. Last week, he turned 24 — fellow Chargers rookie Thomas Costigan is 21 — and he’s the oldest of five children in his family.
Tranquill also has been married for more than a year. In May, he and his wife, Jackie, had their first child.
All of this, he said, has matured him and fed into his natural inclination to want to lead.
Then, there’s this:
“Leadership’s always been something that’s cool to me. I just think life’s all about people. I’ve got a message to share. You’ve got a message to share. If we can communicate effectively and help one another … that’s always been an interest to me.”
The Chargers have plenty of veterans — Philip Rivers, Thomas Davis and Brandon Mebane, just to start — to guide them this season. In Tranquill, they have a young leader, one with a bit of an old-school style to his game.
“I like to think of him as being your backyard football player,” Rochell said. “He’s your guy who’s just always talking ball. He loves the game. That shows up when we’re playing. He’s got great instincts because he loves it so much.”
Derwin James has surgery
Safety Derwin James underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his right foot. The All-Pro will start the season on the injured reserve list and is expected to be sidelined from three to four months.
Casey Hayward to play
Cornerback Casey Hayward will make his first, and only, appearance of the preseason Saturday when the Chargers play host to Seattle. The impetus to play came from Hayward, Lynn saying that the veteran approached him with the request.
“Casey’s going to play a couple snaps,” Lynn said. “That’s what he felt like he needed. So that’s what I want to give him.”
The rest of the veterans who haven’t appeared this preseason, including Rivers, won’t play.
Receiver Dontrelle Inman signed and practiced with the Chargers. He’s expected to be on the opening-day 53-man roster. … Rookie safety Nasir Adderley (hamstring) practiced for the first time in weeks. Lynn said he definitely wants to get the second-round pick into the Chargers’ final preseason game, next week at San Francisco.