From football mascot to starting quarterback in seven weeks - even Hollywood would balk at turning that script into a movie.
But that's the truly incredible story of Trent Bauer
, a junior at Dunbar (Lexington, Ky.)
Let's call it "The Trent Bauer Story" and begin with Dunbar's season opener, a lopsided 45-6 loss to
Eastern (Louisville, Ky.)
. Wearing the outfit of the team mascot, a bulldog, Bauer had done everything he could to put life into the rather lethargic crowd. He even stumbled and fell twice on the bleachers - on purpose - in hopes of creating some chatter.
The next school day, Bauer approached coach Derrick Thomas and asked if he could join the team as a player. He had many friends on the team and they had been recruiting him since the previous year - even though he had not played organized football since he was 10 years old.
"I thought, maybe, I could help out in some way," Thomas said.
Thomas, who is slowly resurrecting the Dunbar program, was a little skeptical at first because Bauer actually had tried out the previous spring but quit after just a few days.
"He kind of hung up his cleats and walked away," Thomas said.
This time Thomas accepted Bauer's apology, because the Bulldogs were hurting at quarterback. In fact, their No. 1 and 2 players at that position were converted wide receivers.
When Trent told his father, Joe Bauer, about his wish to again take a crack at football, the elder Bauer replied, "Why don't you play lacrosse?"
The elder Bauer pointed out, "At 10 he absolutely hated it and wanted to quit. I wouldn't let him quit until he finished the season."
Before this season, that one year of football at age 10 was the sum total of Bauer's football experience. He played 10 games - one at quarterback and nine at tight end.
Trent Bauer said he favored the quarterback position because, "I just liked throwing the ball and having the ball in my hands on every play."Elevated to ball boy
He explained that he quit spring practice as a sophomore because he realized, "It was going to be a lot of work to get where everyone else was at - a lot of catch-up."
But now he was energized and all he had to do was get in 10 practices before becoming eligible. He did all the conditioning and drills, but was not allowed any contact. On game days he was the ball boy.
"I wanted to think I was going to play varsity," Bauer said. "But I thought I'd probably play JV all year and get better."
Well, he started and played three JV games.
He related, "The first game I didn't have much time (to prepare) and I looked awful. (He took some major hits.) The third game I was a whole lot better. They even let me run the ball a little. I ran for one touchdown and threw for one touchdown."
The latter effort prompted a promotion for the varsity's seventh game against Bryan Station (Lexington, Ky.). With the Bulldogs trailing badly, Bauer made his varsity debut in the final six minutes. All he did was throw two touchdown passes in a 42-17 loss.
Thomas' reaction was, "He's got some excitement going. Let's put him in and see what he can do."
"I didn't know what to expect," Bauer said of the following practice. "They put me under center and said, 'This is what we're going to do.' Wow!"
With Bauer starting in the eighth game of the season, previous starter Emory Thompson
was moved back to his natural position at wide receiver. The 5-foot-10, 165-pounder had accounted for more than 1,000 all-purpose yards and is one of the state's leading defensive players with seven interceptions.
A good friend since sixth grade, Thompson said, "It was great to have a quarterback out there and give me back as a wide receiver. It worked out for the best."
Steve Spielberg definitely would have a hard time swallowing what happened in Bauer's first varsity start. But at the same time they would love to see it on the big screen.Open arms
For three quarters, the game against Henry Clay (Lexington, Ky.) wasn't worth cable access. Clay, which had defeated Dunbar 11 straight times, was in total command. But the fourth quarter will be etched in Dunbar history books as the Bulldogs scored all of their points in the final 12 minutes of a scintillating 22-19 victory.
The hero? Who else? The mascot. The ball boy.
Bauer fired two scoring strikes in the decisive period, including the winning 50-yarder to Thompson with just eight seconds left. His stats weren't really pretty — 7-of-24 for 118 yards and two scores — but the result was a Monet.
'It was one of the greatest times in my life," Bauer said. "But I still felt like I had to improve a lot."
Thompson, who was the Bulldogs' leading receiver as a sophomore, left no doubt that Bauer has been accepted by teammates with open arms.
He noted that even as a mascot, Bauer "brought a lot of energy to the game. We fed off him a lot. He's a pretty fun guy to be around."
In no time at all, ABC's Good Morning America was calling and actually put up a short video interview with the new hero on Saturday morning.
"It was cool," Bauer said humbly of the unexpected national television exposure. "I really owe it to my team."
His second start wasn't nearly as glamorous, though, as the Bulldogs were badly over-matched in a 68-6 loss to Scott County (Georgetown, Ky.), dropping their record to 3-6.
"He got hit a lot and was just rushing himself," Thomas said. "He was super nervous, but he did pass for our only touchdown."
Said Bauer: "Hopefully, each snap gets a little easier. There are not as many butterflies." Back to the bulldog suit
Thanks to offensive coordinator Jim Franklin, Bauer said he hasn't had much problem mastering the Dunbar playbook.
As far as the team accepting him, he said: "The team has been great. The team helps me a lot. I'm one person who doesn't care about my stats a lot. I just want to win."
Preparing for Friday's regular-season finale, Thomas couldn't be happier.
"I'm shocked - really very shocked," he said of Bauer's emergence. "We were scratching our heads, hoping a quarterback would move in. We never had a back-up for Emory. We used another wide receiver. He (Bauer) has done well. I'm very amazed at his progress, his arm, his ability to adjust. His footwork is getting a lot better. He's got to be a leader on the field. He's earned the confidence of his players - a huge plus."
The big quarterback on campus will return to his humble duties in the winter.
That's right, Bauer will jump back into his mascot suit when the basketball season begins. He actually got his start last March when he was asked to be the mascot in support of a Final Four girls basketball team.
However, he also is going to spend a lot of time preparing for his senior year of football.
"He's going to stay in that weight room," Thomas insisted. "We've got to get a little weight on him and get him stronger. He has a bright future with Dunbar football if he keeps working hard over the summer, We have a good supporting cast (returning). He's got a quick release and last night (against Scott County) he was throwing it so quickly that they (his receivers) weren't getting out there fast enough."
Thompson is in agreement.
"He's done as well as expected," Thompson said. "We couldn't ask for more. He had to adjust - dive in and get his feet wet. Next year we can only go up from here. He just absorbs the offense. He looks like he's got a bright future ahead of him."
Could Bauer, who has a 3.4 GPA, earn a college football scholarship next year?
He replied, "I haven't thought about that. It that comes up, it comes up. But it's not one of my priorities right now. "
With his quarterback position apparently filled, coach Thomas only has one problem left to solve.
Despite being one of Kentucky's largest schools (2,300 in grades 9-12), he still can't find a replacement mascot for the football team.
You can contact Dave Krider by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @noonhoops.
Transformations is a weekly MaxPreps feature that reveals the role of high school sports in transforming lives. If you have a good transformations story to tell, please contact senior writer and columnist Mitch Stephens at email@example.com.