Five years ago, Rob Hinson and some of his Timber Creek football coaching assistants were running a clinic with the Winslow Maulers youth program.
"There was this little seventh grader, running around with a headband, and everybody was saying, 'That's your next quarterback,' " Hinson recalled.
Khalil Trotman was the seventh grader and, as it turns out, he was Timber Creek's quarterback of the future.
It just took him a long time to arrive.
Trotman said he moved from the Sicklerville area to Burlington Township with his mother as an eighth grader. He attended Holy Cross as a freshman, then started for two seasons as a sophomore and junior for Burlington Township High.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Trotman will play his senior season for Timber Creek. He said he moved in with his father, who lives in Sicklerville, in June.
Based on his play this summer, Trotman is likely to make a major impact for a Timber Creek team that looms as one of the state's strongest squads.
"He's the real deal," Hinson said after Trotman led Timber Creek to an impressive showing in a scrimmage against two-time Non-Public 4 state champion Paramus Catholic.
Trotman passed for 182 yards and three touchdowns in the first half against Paramus Catholic, which is No. 7 in MaxPreps' Northeast Regional preseason rankings.
Trotman, who has scholarship offers from Delaware State and Morgan State, has a quick release that was especially effective against Paramus Catholic's pass rush.
Operating Timber Creek's spread, no-huddle offense, Trotman led the Chargers on three consecutive touchdown drives. On the team's final possession of the half, Timber Creek reached the Paramus Catholic 2-yard line.
"We did OK, but there are some things we need to do better," Trotman said after the scrimmage Monday on the Chargers' back practice field. "If we all do our job, I think we can be unstoppable."
Trotman passed for 1,656 yards as a junior at Burlington Township. He could put up some big statistics this season, as Timber Creek has a deep and talented receiving corps and the Chargers play a fast-paced, wide-open style.
Last season, Timber Creek senior Dan Williams set a state record with 3,545 passing yards and also threw for 32 touchdowns.
Trotman should benefit from a receivers group that includes 6-2 junior Cameron Chambers, a Michigan State recruit who was named MaxPreps' sophomore of the year last season after making 57 catches for 1,196 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Timber Creek's other top receiver is 6-2 senior Alan Butler, a Bucknell recruit who caught 41 passes last season for 540 yards. And the Chargers might have two emerging standouts in 6-2 juniors Noah Ellison and Shaquese McIntyre, both of whom caught touchdown passes against Paramus Catholic.
"We have guys who can make plays," Trotman said.
Unlike Williams, a classic pocket passer, Trotman is a dangerous runner. In that sense, he's more like former Timber Creek quarterback Calvin Lowe, who helped the Chargers to a 12-0 record and the South Jersey Group 3 title in 2011.
Hinson said Trotman brings a blend of Williams' and Lowe's best qualities: a quick release, an accurate arm, plus a top running back's speed and elusiveness.
"He's the total package," Butler said.
The more impressive thing about Trotman's play against Paramus Catholic might have been his running. Although he gained just 21 yards on five carries, Trotman showed his speed in pulling away from blitzers and turning the corner against one of the state's most talented teams.
Twice, Trotman lowered his shoulder into tacklers rather than seek the safety of the sideline.
"I wanted to send a message," Trotman said. "I wanted to show that we could play with anybody."