"You start from somewhere and build your way up," said the Iowa senior and Lane Tech graduate.
The West Rogers Park native learned that principle from his mother, Estera, and father, Vasile — Romanian immigrants who came to the United States one year apart in search of a better life.
"In Romania, we didn't see our dreams coming true," said Estera, a cafeteria cook at a Wilmette elementary school. "Little income, even for hard workers."
Justin Breen says the rest of Louis' family was born in Romania:
Vasile, Chief Engineer at Clark Place Condominium Association in Lincoln Park, left Romania in 1988. His wife, and their four children at the time, joined him on Dec. 14, 1989 — one day before the beginning of the Romanian Revolution.
Louis was born Sept. 7, 1991. He quickly realized there was only one way to act at home.
"Growing up, we never had much, and it was always a mentality that you can always do better," he said. "That's something I've always seen, and it's allowed me to not be complacent and improve every day."
That has paid off in a big way at Iowa (4-1, 1-0), where Trinca-Pasat has made a program-high 30 straight starts at defensive tackle heading into Saturday's homecoming game against Indiana. He also has accumulated 33 tackles, third most on the Hawkeyes and second best in the Big Ten for defensive linemen.
"He’s hard working and he’s tough, and people respect that. … He’s really distinguished himself in that matter," Iowa defensive line coach Reese Morgan said. "He’s a very mature, hard-working guy who holds himself to an extremely high standard."
The statistics are especially impressive considering Trinca-Pasat didn't play tackle football until his freshman year of high school. His parents had forbidden him from the sport while he attended Walt Disney Magnet School through eighth grade, only allowing him to compete in basketball and flag football.
"My parents were strict," he said. "They just wanted me and my brothers to go to church [at Philadelphia Romanian Church of God in Ravenswood] and be involved there."
The summer before he entered Lane Tech, Trinca-Pasat's two older brothers, Florin and Vasile Jr., convinced the heads of the household the family's youngest child deserved a chance on the gridiron.
It was love at first hit.
"The first time I tackled someone, I was so psyched," said Trinca-Pasat, who was promoted to varsity by the end of his freshman season.
His coach at Lane Tech, Rich Rio, said Trinca-Pasat was "dominant" as both a tight end and linebacker.
"He was a team captain and led by example," Rio said. "Louis is one of the finest young men I have had the good fortune to coach during my 30-plus-year career."
Eight top-tier colleges pursued Trinca-Pasat, and he chose Iowa in big part so his parents could see him perform every week.
His dad said it's been a treat getting to see his son play in some of college football's biggest stages.
"We travel a lot, almost every weekend," Vasile Sr. said.
Those voyages could continue for several years as the 6-foot-3, 290-pound Trinca-Pasat is a potential NFL draft pick in 2015.
His first goal after departing Iowa — where he's earned a 4.2 grade point average — is to play professionally. He said Plan B is to get into coaching, with becoming an athletic director serving as another backup option.
"I love sports, so that's what I want to continue to do in some way," he said.
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