Chargers rookie offensive tackle Trey Pipkins has mastered the art of the first impression.
"You put a microphone or a camera in his face and he's gonna light up the room with his smile and his personality," said Jon Anderson, Pipkins' head coach at the University of Sioux Falls.
Behind that infectious enthusiasm is the first NFL prospect from Sioux Falls to be drafted in 35 years. Pipkins, 21, was selected in the third round – No. 91 overall – for a reason. His production at a Division II program was exceptional, but it's his pro potential that appears to have a sky-high ceiling.
At 6-foot-6, 309 pounds, Pipkins was the first-ever Sioux Falls player to be invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, according to the school's website. He was also credited with 234.5 knockdowns in 43 starts, and only allowed two sacks in his college career.
"I told every scout that came through here that his best days of football are ahead of him, and he's far from peaked out," Anderson said.
Before the start of the 2018 college football season, Anderson said he sat down with Pipkins to formulate a checklist of things to work on after speaking with NFL scouts. Athleticism was already apparent. Physicality was the focus.
According to Anderson, part of Pipkins' makeup is to continually seek improvement. He applied the scouts' feedback during his senior season. Chargers Offensive Coordinator Ken Whisenhunt noted how Pipkins' performance against elevated competition at the East-West Shrine Game helped the team feel comfortable investing in the big man from a small school.
Success in the NFL, though, requires an even higher level of meticulousness.
"I still have a little mental list of my own that I need to check off," Pipkins said.
He pointed to working on his upper body strength as being a top priority in the pros. Pipkins also said he's eager to soak up knowledge from the Chargers' offensive line brain trust. His new position coach Pat Meyer has 20 years of coaching experience. Teammates Russell Okung and Mike Pouncey have each been to multiple Pro Bowls.
"We've got a really good culture in our offensive line room," Whisenhunt said. "We've got some guys that are pretty good players in this league that have been there, that are good leaders and they help these young guys."
Anderson said Pipkins "wants to learn, wants to improve and wants to please," and will be a positive addition to the Chargers' locker room. However, his affable personality comes with a disclaimer.
"Don't get fooled by the smile," Pipkins said. "I smile a lot and laugh a lot off the field, but on the field I'm here to compete and I'll do whatever to help the team win."