Talent has no size restrictions or heart restrictions. You don’t have to be an obvious physical freak to stand out on an athletic field. If you’re good, and if you’re committed to excelling, there’s always a team that will want you.
At 5-9 and 165 pounds, Danny Trejo is an average-sized male college student. But the 19-year-old freshman forward is anything but average on the soccer field, to the delight of his coaches and teammates at Cal State University, Northridge.
Trejo has become a requisite part of CSUN’s offensive attack and someone who opponents must plan to stop. As the 5-4 Matadors prepare to open Big West Conference play today, Sept. 28, against Sacramento State in Sacramento, Trejo is second on the team in goals scored (4) and total points (9). Those four goals have come on only six shots on goal.
He said he’s not surprised at his early success.
“I work at the game. I work at my game. I know what it takes to get the good results. I’m not surprised at all,” Trejo said. “I’m still hungry for it. I just want to keep working hard, and the sky’s the limit.”
Perhaps no one should be surprised by Trejo’s scoring acumen. He finished his high school career as California’s all-team leading scorer in boys’ soccer with an unprecedented 200 goals.
But few outside of soccer aficionados, coaches and scouts may immediately recognize his name or the accomplishment.
Trejo, one of seven children and of Mexican heritage, comes from Mendota, a very small town in Central California, approximately 40 miles from Fresno with an estimated population of 12,000 living on 3.3 square miles. Many of its citizens are farm laborers — Mendota promotes itself as the “cantaloupe center of the world — who put in long, hard hours in agriculture fields for limited wages.
So soccer is not the only thing Trejo wants to work hard at. He wants to take his educational opportunity here as seriously as he does his soccer. He is the first in his family to attend a four-year university. Older siblings Martha and Luis Trejo have attended community colleges.
“Growing up in a small community…we all want to do great things. I got the chance to come over to LA, and get my education as well as play my favorite sport. I want to take advantage of it while I’m over here. Just do my best, and what I have to do to become successful,” said Trejo who plans to major in kinesiology.
“When I first got here I realized it was much different, coming from a small town — everything is a lot different. But I’m adapting to it and just loving it. I’m getting my education and playing the sport I like. It’s just a great feeling.”
CSUN Men’s Soccer Coach Terry Davila studied game film and personally scouted Trejo last fall when he starred on the Mendota High School team, scoring 65 goals in his senior year — set a Central Section single-season record — and helping the team repeat as Sierra League and section Division IV champions.
But it was more than just the speed and the dribbling and passing skills of Trejo that made Davila want him for the Matadors program.
“I saw how the community and his team reacted to him. He has a tremendous influence on people,” Davila said. “He does things the right way. He leads by example, and is a tremendous role model to a lot of players in that community — not just because of his talent but the way he does things. He just does everything correct.”
Mendota High football Coach Robert “Beto” Mejia, who mentored Trejo and helped with his recruiting trips, backed Davila’s sentiments.
“Danny is a special talent,” Mejia said. “He understands that hard work and being humble can put you in the right places. And nothing is given to him. He’s real genuine and passionate not only about soccer, but also about life.
“I wanted him for football. But a kid of his caliber and talent, I didn’t want him playing football and get injured, and risk his chance to play college and professional soccer. I think he has the potential (for pro). If he was in an academy or areas like that he would be better because of their resources — maybe even be with the national team in Florida. But 200 goals is not something you do overnight. Even doing 100 in high school is pretty good.”
Still, it was expected that Trejo would have to adjust to the speed and level of play expected in NCAA Division I soccer. Even Trejo admits he’s not quite in peak physical condition for the college game.
“High school ball, you don’t run as much — it’s a lower speed,” Trejo said. “When you come to college you’ve got to adapt. I’m working hard at practice, trying to get in shape for the college level.”
Trejo scored his first goal against Sienna on Aug. 25, his second ever college game. He has also netted goals against Utah Valley, Grand Canyon and UCLA.
“He’s better than I thought,” Davila said.
For now, Trejo’s entire focus is on soccer and school work. He would love an opportunity to play professionally, but is not banking on that as his only pathway to a productive life.
“I love the feeling that I’m being successful at my sport and getting my education,” he said. “That’s a great feeling, being in college. I’m here on my own, but that’s what motivates me.
“I’m a small kid from a small town. But I’m out here with goals.”