While growing up in Los Angeles and after moving to Colorado during his high school years, Trustin Oliver dreamed of playing at the highest level of college football.
On the field at Legend High School, Oliver proved to be a Division I talent. Academically, he had more work to do, though.
After signing a national letter of intent on Feb. 6, 2019, to play for the Colorado Buffaloes, Oliver took a detour to the junior college ranks. On Monday, the 6-foot-4, 221-pound safety announced he has committed to join the Buffs for the 2021 recruiting class.
“It meant a lot to me knowing they still want me back,” said Oliver, who has spent the past year at Iowa Western Community College.
Oliver was a late addition to the Buffs’ 2019 recruiting class, committing to then-head coach Mel Tucker. Oliver didn’t meet the academic requirements to enroll at CU, however, and the Tucker-led staff set him up at Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College last summer.
After a couple months at Co-Lin, however, Oliver decided to make another move. Just before the start of fall camp, he transferred to Iowa Western.
“(Co-Lin) is a great school; a lot of good players, a lot of great coaches coming out of there,” he said. “At the end of the day, certain schools don’t work out for a lot of kids and in order to be successful, you’ve got to find what fits for you.”
Oliver felt an immediate connection with IWCC coaches, loved the campus and made the move. He wound up redshirting and didn’t play in a game for the Reivers, but said the past year has been big for his development. (This week, the NJCAA moved the 2020 football season to the spring, so Oliver won’t play at IWCC this fall, either.)
“It’s been the best move I ever made so far,” said Oliver, who plans to graduate in December and enroll at CU in January. “I got a lot of knowledge and a lot of level support from the coaching staff here and the players and the atmosphere.”
While Oliver had his eye on returning to CU, that possibility was in doubt when Tucker left CU to take the head coaching job at Michigan State in February.
Oliver didn’t have a prior relationship with new head coach Karl Dorrell or new safeties coach Brett Maxie. But, Dorrell did retain defensive coordinator Tyson Summers, who recruited Oliver last year.
“(Summers) told them about me, and they gave me a couple calls and showed me a lot of love and loyalty and just a lot of a lot of appreciation,” Oliver said.
Oliver said virtual meetings and phone calls have allowed him to connect with Maxie, in particular, along with Dorrell and cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin.
“One word I can use to describe those guys is phenomenal,” he said. “What they bring to the table, how they are. I definitely cannot wait to be a part of that and learn even more from them.”
Oliver said one conversation with Maxie went three-and-a-half hours and it included a lot of listening on Oliver’s part.
“I’ve always been told since I was a little boy: your greatest aspect is you being able to listen, take corrective criticism and change it … whether it’s in the classroom, on the field, in the social aspects of it or just walking down the street,” he said. “If you listen, you get through life a lot (easier) because you understand what people are really trying to say. You can be more successful.”
Oliver believes that has been a key to getting through the past year. He never planned on the taking the JUCO route, but he made the most of it.
“I tell a lot of kids this and I tell a lot of parents this who say, ‘Should I send my kid to junior college?’” he said. “Yes. If he doesn’t make it out of high school, whether it’s grades or attitude or whatever it is, go to junior college.”
The JUCO route got him on track academically, while also giving him an opportunity to go against Division I-caliber talent in practice. Several of his teammates came to IWCC from Power 5 schools and the program routinely sends players to four-year colleges. In the 2020 class, IWCC had 27 players sign with four-year schools, including seven going Power 5.
“You go against those dudes from Power 5 schools every day,” said Oliver, who added 20 pounds to his frame at IWCC. “Me being a young dude, coming here at 17 years old and going against them was a lot to take in, but being able to hold my ground and knowing, OK, if I can ball with these dudes and hold my own with them, I feel like I have a lot more confidence (going to CU).”
That confidence extends beyond the field. Not only does Oliver feel bigger, stronger and faster athletically; but he’s enjoyed success in the classroom.
“I have a lot of time on my hands, so why not use it for some good use?” he said. “I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job with that during my time here.”