Kennedy Tinsley hasn’t seen a lot of Trey Love, since he only assumed the position of head football coach at Greensboro’s Southeast Guilford High School in February.
But the exposure has been enough for Tinsley to understand Love is a young man with great potential.
“I had already heard a lot of about him, and I had coached against him last year when I was at Eastern (Guilford as an assistant),” Tinsley said. “But when I got here he jumped out at me because of his athleticism and size. I’ve been coaching him in track, so I’ve seen how explosive he can be. All that has made me anxious to get him out on the football field. I can already see the making of a special player there.”
Tinsley’s assessment is obviously shared by the former and current East Carolina coaching staffs, both of which offered him a scholarship following a stellar sophomore campaign at Southeast Guilford. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound defensive end accepted the offer from the current staff March 14 to become the third member of the Pirates’ recruiting Class of 2018.
Love, who also had an offer from Charlotte, had been sold on the Pirates for some time. But he decided to pull the trigger and make a verbal commitment after visiting campus for a Junior Day activity.
“As soon as I got there, I felt a connection for me and my mom,” Love said. “They treated us like family. I loved their facilities and there was just a bond with the coaches. I felt like I wanted to be coached by them.”
The opportunity to play major college football is something Love has been thinking about since his recreation days. Even at that early stage, coaches were already telling Love he had the potential to reach that level.
“I was already bigger than most of the players at that age,” Love said. “A lot of people were telling me I could be great and I could go far with football. So I started believing and working toward achieving that dream.”
Upon his arrival at Southeast Guilford, Love played linebacker and fullback for the junior varsity most of his freshman year. But late in the year he was called up to the varsity to work as a fullback. Love made his varsity debut that season, rushing three times for 12 yards in two games.
It was after that freshman year that Love had his first encounter with a college coach when former Wake Forest cornerbacks coach Derrick Jackson dropped by to see him.
“That’s when I really saw myself playing college football,” Love said.
Moving into a starting role at defensive end as a sophomore, Love delivered 53 tackles and six quarterback sacks. He continued to be used in short-yardage situations and contributed 124 yards and a touchdown rushing on 24 carries.
The 2016 season saw Love rack up 75 tackles and seven sacks to earn first-team All-Metro 4-A Conference and second-team All-Area honors from the Greensboro News & Record. He also earned an invitation to the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Junior Combine in January. The combine, in San Antonio, TX, featured 600 of the top high school underclassmen.
“It was a great opportunity to be able to talk to other top players, and test myself against that kind of talent,” Love said. “It was serious stuff.”
Right before Love left for Texas, Southeast Guilford decided to make a coaching change and dismissed veteran Fritz Hessenthaler, who had compiled a 100-72 overall record in 14 seasons.
Enter Tinsley, a Greensboro native and former North Carolina player, who was hired in early February. Tinsley was a four-year letterwinner for the Tar Heels between 2006-09 as a fullback and linebacker. He had spent the previous six seasons as an assistant at East Guilford.
“Working with him has been really hard in a good way,” Love said. “Plus, I’m blessed to be able to work with a coach who has been where I want to go. That’s why I look up to him.”
The two are working together currently on the track where Tinsley is coaching and Love is competing in the discus and shot put, as well as the relay events for Southeast Guilford.
East Carolina has recruited Love to play defensive end, where he hopes to develop like his NFL heroes, J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.
“I watch their highlight reels and how they practice,” Love said. “They are talented and they work hard. I would be great to do what they do. They are some of the best players, and that’s what I want to be.”
Love is expected to attend ECU’s spring game on April 22, and says he’s a solid commitment to Pirates.
“Right now I feel pretty solid,” he said. “I really like East Carolina a lot and I see myself fitting in there.”