A variation of a 2016 presidential campaign slogan has been the goal of University of Missouri middle linebacker Jake Trump since he was little. After Donald Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again,” Jake Trump heard fans in West Virginia yelling at him “Make Mizzou Great Again” when the Tigers played there in 2016.
“Getting to compete every week, that is amazing. I love competing,” said Trump, who prayed when he was little that he would go to Mizzou and carried around a Mizzou Media Guide at a young age, memorizing players, stats, and records. “I’ve always wanted to go to Mizzou, my dream school, my home state. I love representing my state. I love the Missouri tradition. I love that aspect and I’m super grateful to play SEC football, the best in college football.”
He has been part of a resurgence that has had the Tigers in two straight bowl games, an improving record, and predictions of being a Top 25 contender. During that time, he has he has gone from walk-on to scholarship entering his redshirt senior year this season.
“Mizzou had been down my first two years, but the last two years have been a lot of fun trying to build back. It’s been great, rewarding, really cool,” he said. “I want to win a championship as a team, win an SEC title, help Mizzou any way I can.”
While not related to President Trump, his teammates called him “Prez” after Trump got elected. Jake Trump, however, is the nephew of Missouri head coach Barry Odom.
After playing only two halves of his senior year at Clark County High School in Kahoka, Mo., in 2014, Trump cracked a bone in his ankle, tearing tendons. He had been recruited by FCS and NCAA Division II schools with one scholarship offer. FBS colleges talked with him about walk-on status. Odom, who has known Jake since he was two after marrying Tia Trump, the sister of Jake’s father Thad Trump, told him he had a spot if he wanted one.
“It was a God-thing that I should be at Mizzou. Considering all the circumstances, it’s amazing that I am here,” said Jake, who tore his ACL during his redshirt sophomore year in 2017 just two games into the season.
Through God’s grace, his injuries helped him grow closer to God, he said.
“I think about how I need God. I need Jesus. By God’s grace I get to do what I do and have the opportunity that I have had. Without him I would be really frustrated. I would be at a loss without him. I don’t know how people survive without him. Without Jesus I am nothing,” said Trump, who puts a small cross on his cleats when he plays. “Jesus is everything. He is my rock. I try to emulate Christ when I play. I want to live like him, love like him. I want people to see there is something different about me, walk it out by example in a very humble way.”
Trump’s spiritual leadership comes in the locker room as he deals with players and their relationships and outside of it. Trump leads team Bible studies and is active in Athletes in Action evangelical ministry. He went to a prison to talk with inmates, visited a children’s hospital in Columbia, and read to elementary school students. When asked, he leads team prayer before games. He was a huddle leader at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes Weekend and FCA camp in St. Louis. Before the 2017 Texas Bowl, Trump led a team Christmas Eve service.
“I see him serving others all the time,” said Odom. “It’s never about Jake. He is such a tremendous server, very selfless with strong moral values and lives them every day.”
“He lives his life in a very God-driven way. He is at peace with who he is and all things are kept in perspective because of his God-centered life,” Odom added.
Linebacker Joe Britton, a redshirt sophomore, said that Trump’s faith has influenced him.
“Faith to me is putting God in front of everyone and everything else you do. Everything you do is for Christ but also you do it with Christ, putting trust in the Lord,” said Britton. “Jake loves God and puts him above everything. It shows in how he treats people. He is honest, smart, genuine, caring, patient, funny. Jake has been an incredible leader on and off the field.
“Besides football, Jake has taught me things like studying your Bible, having casual conversations about the Lord, and just great insight spiritually. He has a unique ability to make people feel comfortable talking about God in settings that people wouldn’t normally be talking about him. He is great talking to guys about God in sports,” Britton added. “Spiritually he has taught me to talk to God whenever you can, bring your problems to him and he will provide answers. Jake also helped me with playing through God and using him as a tool in your game.
Entering his fourth season, Odom calls Trump a “great teammate” who wants the best for everyone and “doesn’t allow anyone to outwork him.”
“Every year he has moved his physical skill set to a more complete level through all of his hard work. I am excited about how he will contribute on the field this fall,” said Odom, who wanted him on his team because of a number of characteristics “that you would love to have in your locker room.”
Trump has a strong love for learning the system, studying the game and is physical.
“I love to hit,” said Trump (6-3, 230). “I want people to see my work ethic.”
In 2018, Trump, who also plays on special teams, played in every game during the Tigers’ 8-5 season. He had his first career sack in the season opener and a career-high three tackles. He recovered a fumble against South Carolina setting up a scoring drive.
“Going from a walk-on to a starter requires going above and beyond everyone else,” said Britton “[It requires] daily work and bringing something to the table that others can’t, whether that is knowledge or athleticism. Overall just doing things right, you have way less room for error.”
Roderick Winters, a linebacker who was Trump’s teammate from 2015-18 and an intern with Cru’s Athletes in Action, calls Trump “steadfast and hardworking.”
“Jake is a man that will take charge and speak up for those who may seem voiceless. He takes pride in what he does. He is quick to affirm someone when they are down and when they are up. He is able to give sound advice to those who struggle in an area he may have struggled in. He honors people with respect,” Winters added. “Discipline and resilience from whatever adversity that comes in life is something that Jake has taught me as a man and as a player. He stands tall in the face of adversity. He knows that our Savior has given us victory over the enemy so we can stand with confidence and that is what he does.”
Trump wants to be stable-minded and consistent while loving what he does. He said that allows him to outwork others and continue working hard.
“You do more when you love. A lover always works and will eventually pull ahead of someone who does not love something. I love following that,” said Trump.
“My parents modeled Jesus really well. They showed me the importance of it. I wasn’t a religion type, it was the relationship with Christ that was really important. It wasn’t forced on me and my sisters. I got saved going into 7th grade,” said Jake, who felt a “tug” after hearing an evangelistic sermon. “That is when I gave myself to Christ. When I was little I said prayers before I went to bed. I don’t think I ever truly understood what it was until that time.”
He attended Cornerstone Church in Keokuk, Iowa, growing up.
“I hope I have lived in a way that people would show Christ, the way I love people, the way I handle situations. I push through different circumstances that may have not gone my way. God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, family, give me a lot of encouragement and a mindset of hope. Loving what I do and keeping a positive attitude goes a long way. I want wholly to give every circumstance to the Lord,” Trump explained. “I want to be a man after God’s heart just like David. I love reading Psalms, seeing the authentic prayers. I love Proverbs. Just as I pray for wisdom a lot I love reading about it. I read about Matthew. It puts convictions on my heart and I am in total awe of what Jesus did for us.”
Trump wants that joy and peace in his marriage. He married Dakota Limkermann on June 29. A member of the golf team, she finished her senior year at Lindenwood University in May. While they have putted against each other, Trump said that “she would kill me” in a golf match. Puttputt matches between them are “really competitive.”
Majoring in Agricultural Systems Management, Trump has maintained a 3.5 GPA and been on the SEC Academic Honor Roll in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Being a Mizzou football player has given him an opportunity to minister, to have fun with teammates, and to share experiences.
“I want to follow Christ. I want to carry out his will for me. I want to be guided in that direction. I am super thankful for what I have been able to do. I want to impact people and Jesus to be heard in what I do,” Trump said. “I want to be the absolute best in everything I do.”