South Charlotte

Charlotte Catholic student’s tackling ability goes beyond the football field

Jakob Trumpower makes adjustments to his 3-D printer, which he built himself. He will attend Valparaiso University in fall to major in engineering.
Jakob Trumpower makes adjustments to his 3-D printer, which he built himself. He will attend Valparaiso University in fall to major in engineering. MARTY MINCHIN

Jakob Trumpower wasn’t enthusiastic about sports when he was younger.

His father, Erik, however, was a former high school and college athlete and wanted his son to be active and healthy – in other words, play something.

Before middle school, Jakob Trumpower tried tennis, karate, fencing, soccer, swimming, basketball and baseball, where he was always in the outfield. The one time he hit the ball over the fence, his coach had to tell him to run the bases.

“I was not good at any sports coming in,” said Trumpower.

He started playing football in sixth grade at Holy Trinity Middle School. “People would tell me, you need to learn how to run.”

His mother, Julie Trumpower, wasn’t optimistic. “You might just need to accept that our son is not an athlete,” she recalls telling Erik.

But after a slow start in middle school football, Trumpower spent the summer before ninth grade working out with his father and trainer Greg Peterson. As he became stronger and more agile, he began to enjoy the game.

And he was good at it.

Trumpower is about to graduate from Charlotte Catholic High School, where he has played football for four years. He will attend Valparaiso University on an academic scholarship and play Division 1 football on the school’s team.

Jakob, 17, also is a promising engineering student. He has built a 3-D printer and found all sorts of uses for it, including printing a part for his sister Grace’s wheelchair and a new latch for his car’s gas flap.

Julie Trumpower calls her son “Clark Kent” and a “gentle giant,” a guy who, at 6-foot-3 and 227 pounds, can dominate on the football field but also spend hours reading and talking with Grace, who has cerebral palsy.

“He’s just a sweet kid who has so many good traits,” Julie Trumpower said.

A tinkerer

As a child, Jakob Trumpower liked to take things apart – like radios – and put them back together, Erik Trumpower said. He’s become the family assembler, putting together everything from the family’s lawnmower to Christmas toys. In middle school, Jakob taught himself the computer programming language C++.

Trumpower discovered 3-D printing in Greg Tucker’s engineering class at Charlotte Catholic.

“In my opinion, Jakob will make an excellent engineer,” said Tucker, who founded the engineering program at Charlotte Catholic. “He loves to tinker, has a very inquisitive mind, will try anything, is not afraid to fail and is always researching things he can design and build.”

Trumpower decided to build a 3-D printer himself.

He printed some of the parts on Tucker’s 3-D printer and ordered the rest from China. The final product sits on a table in Trumpower’s bedroom.

Jakob Trumpower’s family has endured his trials and errors as he’s improved the printer, which initially was extremely loud as it worked. Grace, whose room is downstairs from Jakob’s, put up with hours of clacking during hours-long print jobs.

He’s found a way to quiet the printer, and he’s used it to make everything from a real ukulele to a Mother’s Day gift. When the joystick on Grace’s wheelchair broke, Jakob printed a new one.

“I believe Jakob will make a great product designer because of his relentless pursuit of perfection, knowledge and willingness to try anything,” Tucker said.

Making good use of skills

Trumpower began to entertain the idea of playing college football early in high school.

He had the size, and he’d done well at summer football camps in several states. Erik Trumpower said Jakob’s engineering mind has made him a calculating player on the field.

At Charlotte Catholic, Trumpower played in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4-A state championship game this past season, which his team lost 23-15 to undefeated New Bern High School. Trumpower had 10 tackles in that game. He also led the conference in tackles last season from his defensive tackle position.

Trumpower made a highlight reel of his best plays and sent it to about 50 colleges, and coaches began paying attention.

Football, however, is not his long-term plan. He chose to attend Valparaiso, in Indiana, because of its excellent engineering program.

Erik Trumpower said the family will miss Jakob, who will be a 12-hour drive from home when he goes to college. While he has plenty of friends, he also enjoys spending time with his family.

“Socially, he’s here hanging out with us a lot,” Erik Trumpower said. “He’s been a great kid and a great brother.”

The Trumpowers laugh that they also will miss Jakob’s fix-it skills, and Julie Trumpower said that his work with his 3-D printer has made a difference for their family.

“I hope he uses it to do something good for mankind,” she said.

Marty Minchin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email her at