Developing his skills on the football fields of Fort Frances, this outstanding athlete went on to enjoy award winning careers at the university level and in the Canadian Football League (CFL). His small size, quick speed and fearless approach to the game, was the perfect combination for a running and defensive back, which was where he would leave his mark. During his time at Fort Frances High School, the Muskies enjoyed great success, claiming the 1978 and 1979 NorWOSSA senior football titles.
Attending McMaster University he donned #32 for the maroon and grey, and became one of the Marauder's star defensive backs and punt returners, leading the league in interceptions, punt returns, and kick-off returns. Named the Rookie of the Year, he garnered the team's 1981 MVP honours and was a 3-time Ontario Universities Athletic Association All-Star and named an All-Canadian. In 2001, when McMaster selected twenty four players to make up their greatest ever football team, he was named to the Team of the Century as a defensive back, and also earned entry to their Hall of Fame.
Selected as an 8th round pick by the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos in the 1984 Canadian college draft, Tref headed west to try to earn a spot on the team's starting roster, a big challenge for a 1st round pick, let alone an 8th round choice. One of the last to be cut at training camp, he came back on a 21-day trial and proved he belonged in the professional ranks. Following his two seasons with the Eskimos he suited up for the Montreal Alouettes for the start of the 1986 season. Leading the CFL with 46 kick-off returns, running for 964 yards, his efforts saw him named to the 1986 CFL Eastern Conference specialty All-Star Team. Picked up by Winnipeg in the dispersal draft when the Montreal franchise folded, he played nine games with the Bombers before joining the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the remainder of the 1987 season.
Making his way to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the equalization draft of 1988, his experience in their defensive backfield helped lead the club to their first playoff appearance in twelve years, Although sidelined with injuries for most of the 1989 season, his team went all the way, winning the Grey Cup for the first time since 1966. After two more seasons with the Riders, he decided to hang up his cleats. Retiring from the professional ranks in 1991, after an 8 year CFL career, he went on to serve with the Winnipeg Fire Department and remained involved in the game as a member of the CFL alumni and a life-long fan.