Last year was one the Bridges household will never forget.
Hailing from Carrollton (Texas) Hebron High School, wide receiver Trejan Bridges shot up the recruiting ranking boards around the country to earn a five-star ranking by Rivals.com and climb as high as the No. 4 receiver prospect coming out of high school. In December, he signed with Oklahoma University.
“It’s been a real treat, not only for myself, but for my entire family and friends to watch my son Trejan do the things he’s been able to do,” Trejan’s father Jackie Bridges told Developmental Football USA. “Him being one of the top prospects in the country has truly been humbling and a blessing at the same time. That kid put so much work in behind the scenes that people don’t see, so to see him accomplish some of the things he’s doing is great.”
That’s been widely publicized, and for good reason. However, sending the 6-foot-2, 185-pound wideout off to one of college football’s top programs on a full scholarship wasn’t the only elite football accomplishment the Bridges family had in 2018.
As the head coach, the elder Bridges led the North Texas Stampede to a perfect 14-0 record, a Minor Professional Football League Championship, a Texas No. 1 ranking and a bid to a national championship bowl game.
“Last season with the Stampede was one for the ages,” Bridges said. “Whenever you can finish a season undefeated and cap it with a championship, it’s definitely a head coach’s dream. The fact that I was able to get my players to just trust me, trust the other coaches, trust each other and just buy in was the key to our dominant play last season.”
Jackie Bridges once played the receiver position at a high level himself and to this day still holds three receiving records at Upper Iowa University. In 2012, he was inducted into the UIU Football Hall of Fame. After not being selected in the 1993 NFL Draft despite good performances at several camps with NFL teams, he returned home to Dallas, but certainly wasn’t ready to walk away from the gridiron just yet. Bridges joined the Dallas Diesel, which was a national power for several years.
After playing for the Diesel for 13 years, Bridges began coaching at this level and eventually ended up as the head coach of the North Texas Stampede, which is the longest-running team in Texas.
As 2018 unfolded for Bridges, momentum began to build as major Division I, FBS opportunities were coming along for his son, while his Stampede were getting one win after another.
“I’ve always been kind of the underdog,” Bridges said. “I’ve always been told I would never accomplish this or that, so yes it’s definitely been used for motivation, no doubt. It’s nothing I like doing more than proving someone wrong.”
Reaching the top at any level of football takes a lot of things working together and working together well. Anyone who’s ever been there will tell you that. Of all the various items of advice this select group may have to offer, two of them almost always come up.
Football has to be a lifestyle and it takes a team becoming a family and putting the team’s needs ahead of their own in order to be great. For Bridges, football has a daily part of life for many years and his football family helped build the foundation that made such a memorable year possible in 2018.
“A lot of my Stampede players would come and watch Hebron, while supporting my son Trejan at the same time,” Bridges said. “As a coach, it makes me feel good to see those guys in the stands on Friday nights because it does build that extra family bond, not only with myself, but it built it with my son too because he could feel the family brotherhood as well.”
“It meant a lot to him to look up and see some of his dad’s players in the stands watching him play. Trejan would also come on Saturday nights and watch the Stampede play. He would even go to some practices. The whole experience was truly been a blessing for us all and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
As is the case with most blessings in life, having an extended football family was a sort of two-fold blessing for the Bridges.
“Being able to grow up around the game and to just be around this game has been a huge advantage for Trejan,” Bridges said. “Most kids haven’t had the football experience on a daily basis like he’s been able to do, so yes it’s definitely been a major plus in helping him over the years.”
While last year was great for the Bridges household, it is now a new year and 2019 is sure to be different. Although it is guaranteed to be different, 2019 has the potential to also be great and is already full of opportunity.
On Saturday, Trejan moved to Norman to join seven other early enrollees for the Sooners and on Thursday, Jackie and the Stampede will fly to Florida for the USA Bowl against the Southern Ohio Blaze.
“I don’t know much about their history, except they had a pretty good record and I assume they won their league in Ohio,” Bridges said. “We’re just going to line up and try to beat the man in front of us and hopefully come back to Texas with a win.”
When the Stampede return home to Texas, things will be different as well. After spending the last four seasons – and six of the last eight – in the MPFL, the reigning MPFL Champions will begin play in the Crossroads Amateur Football League with the target already on their backs. During the off-season, the CRAFL seemingly cherry-picked most of the top teams from other leagues around the state and now features 14 of the state’s Top 20 teams.
“It will definitely be a big challenge to repeat this season and stay on top,” Bridges said. “I do believe with the attitude and the players we have, and our upper leadership, the North Texas Stampede can indeed repeat this season, especially if we come in with the same mindset as last season and continue to ignore the outside noise and only focus on us.”
Most of the 2018 crew is back for the Stampede, led by former SMU record-setting quarterback Justin Willis.
“With leaders like Justin Willis, Keith Davis, Chris Kennedy, Dougie Sneed, Zay Griffin, Nick Marrow, Lenny Williams, Ed Young Jr., Michael Newhouse and our entire offensive line, which was dominant last year, we will be good again on offense,” Bridges said.
“Defensively, we’ve got linebacker Chris Hayes, Cornelius ‘Greedy’ Houston, DeMarcus Cummings, Rod Richardson, Ricky Kinney, Stewart Glenn, A. Polk, Marcus Cotton, Jeremy Carlton, Jason Goss and many others,” Bridges said. “It was a total team effort last season with about 85 percent of our team coming back this season, it puts us in great position to make another run.”
Football is in full swing for the Stampede with the national game closing in, and on Monday, it’s back to work for Trejan, who will be competing for early playing time with his new roommate Theo Wease, who was rated the No. 1 receiver in the country by Rivals.com out of Allen (Texas) High School. With Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown declaring for the NFL Draft, don’t be surprised if one or both of these freshmen crack the rotation for the Sooners and make plays on the big stage in the fall.
“Our family is extremely proud of Trejan,” Bridges said. “To see him pick a school like the University of Oklahoma, who historically is just a top-notch program, but even more has been able to put themselves in place to compete for a National Championship the past two seasons has been even more glorifying.”