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Trey Pipkins III: Earning the 'Right' Role
"Whenever you can get out there and kind of reaffirm to yourself that this is where you’re supposed to be and you can do this, it’s always good for the confidence."
By Hayley Elwood Aug 03, 2022

With training camp here, we're checking in with Chargers players ahead of the 2022 season:

Our series continues this week with Trey Pipkins III.

Now in his fourth NFL season, the 2019 third-round pick of the Bolts finds himself entrenched in earning the starting right tackle role. 

Here's more from Pipkins on that competition, his offseason working out with Duke Manyweather, how he's grown as a player from Sioux Falls to now, and more.

Let's rewind to the offseason. How did it go?

Pipkins: It was really good. Rashawn [Slater] and [former Chargers guard] Oday [Aboushi] got me hooked up working with Duke Manyweather.

We were in the locker room the day after the season ended and we were talking about offseason plans. I said I didn't really have plans and was going to stay around here and work out for a while. And they were like you should try coming down to Duke. I had them explain what the programs were like and it sounded good so I gave it a shot. I learned a lot and got a lot of great workouts in. It's been really nice.

He's like the o-line specialist, right?

Pipkins: Yeah, he's kind of grown into that. He trains about 35-40 guys, offensive linemen, and has earned a lot of respect, rightfully, because he has a lot of good knowledge. Not just the strength and conditioning biomechanics side, but the offensive line stuff, so it was really cool.

It's early, but what has your fourth training camp been like so far?

Pipkins: It's always good to get back with the guys and get back on the field to see how your offseason has prepared you for the season.

How are you a different player than when you first came into the league?

Pipkins: Oh, so many ways! I obviously have put on a lot of strength which has helped me on the field, but I've just learned so much about the game.

Coming from a D-II school [Sioux Falls], all my coaches were great and I learned a lot there, but [the NFL is] just a different level. You learn about different things you never learned about in college. And all of that stuff helps slow the game down as you learn more and more.

I've just learned so much and gained so much knowledge along with all the physical things I've gained, that's probably the biggest way I've grown.

Piggybacking off of that, what's the biggest thing you've learned over the last few years?

Pipkins: That's tough! I think the biggest thing is reading a defense. Just reading how linebacker fits and safety rotations can affect d-line movement so you don't have to react every single time; you can be more proactive than reactive.

You can see how the safeties rotating or how linebackers are shifting over, and things like that, and you can predict what a defensive line is gonna do. That helps a ton post-snap.

Transitioning from a D-II program to the NFL, did you feel like you maybe had to learn a little bit quicker or learn a bit more than some of your D-I teammates?

Pipkins: I can't speak for them, but I think a little bit. I think I had to learn a little more because the caliber of players and coaches at D-II are just different than D-I. It's not a knock on any players, but it's just the reality of it. You learn a little bit. You learn from coaches who have a bit more experience and have been doing this for however many years. I had to learn a little more.

You go through a head coaching change pretty early on in your career – we'll get to offensive line coach Brendan Nugent in a second – but offensively, what's the biggest impact this staff has had?

Pipkins: They're all really positive and energetic and you can just feel it. You can feel the energy, and when they talk about football, you can tell they love the game. It's just awesome to have coaches like that who love the game, love football, and they're good at teaching it. They can teach it. They're good, they're excited about it, and it makes you excited about it.

You've had a different offensive line coach with the Chargers every year you've been in the NFL:

2019: Pat Meyer

2020: James Campen

2021: Frank Smith

2022: Brendan Nugent

Has it been hard to find the consistency there as a young player?

Pipkins: I think struggles came from that a little bit because I didn't know what my style was. I was trying to do one coach's style or one player's style. I had tried to kind of imitate what Russ [Okung] did my rookie year and was like that didn't work for me. And then I just didn't know what my style was and having different coaches, I was trying their new styles.

But now, having similar coaches that have come from a similar philosophy the last two years, they have similar coaching styles and I feel like I've found my style and that's helped a ton.

So you go from Frank Smith to Nugent this year. Talk to me about "Nuge," what's the vibe and what has he brought to this group?

Pipkins: Nuge is awesome. He comes from the same kind of philosophy as Frank. Similar coaches, they're gonna shoot you straight, they'll mess around, but when it's time to work, it's time to work and they coach you really well and really hard. He's been really good for the group.

Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi talked about you coming into game action last year and how it built confidence.

What did that game teach you now that you enter this battle for the starting right tackle role?

Pipkins: It's always good to go out there and get some confidence for yourself. I know I can do it. I knew I could do it. But having played so bad [earlier in the year], I was mad at myself, I was down a little bit, so to go in there and play like I did – play like I knew I could play – and know there were a lot of things I could still improve on and get better at, it just gave me some more confidence back. That's just huge. Whenever you can get out there and kind of reaffirm to yourself that this is where you're supposed to be and you can do this, it's always good for the confidence.

Was there something that clicked?

Pipkins: I don't think necessarily. I just think I just relaxed a little bit and stop putting so much pressure on myself. I got back to the basics. The real basic things and stop trying to focus on every little thing I was trying to do perfectly, it helped a lot. Those two basic things: get to the spot and beat the guy to the spot, things like that are gonna help you win 75% of the reps.

I had to kind of go back to having fun and not put too much pressure on myself.

There's this competition between you and Storm Norton for the starting right tackle spot.

For you, what has it been like being out here sharing the reps and the trajectory as we get further into camp and the preseason and how that will shake out?

Pipkins: It's cool. Storm's my guy, we're friends. We both understand the competition and we both like that, we're both competitive guys. Neither of us has hard feelings when the other gets reps. We help each other out.

It's good and competition never hurts anything. We're both excited about it, we've both been good with it, and it'll help both of us to be honest.

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