Smith: More history in store for Troy University footballPublished 10:29pm Friday, December 27, 2013
By Dan Smith, Director of TPRD
Two, three, four………..
Lee Hollingsworth was a receiver, and a good one, for the 1984 Troy State University football team. On this particular play, however, the junior had three other very important responsibilities.
Five, six………Hollingsworth knelt as he counted every player on his team with his finger, taking his time, making sure Troy State did not have too many men on the field.
That was one of his responsibilities, in addition to catching the snap from center and giving a good place and hold for true freshman placekicker Ted Clem, who stood motionless, tall and lanky, eye on the impending snap, ready to strike.
That was Hollingsworth’s responsibility for every kick during the regular season and playoffs, and there was no reason to change things now.
Seven, eight, nine……….
Troy State head coach Chan Gailey, his assistants and his teammates on the sideline were
jumping and waving their arms and screaming from the sidelines, “SNAP THE BALL! SNAP THE BALL!”
Troy had no timeouts. The clock was running.
Hollingsworth was kneeling 50 yards from the goal posts. Across the line were the defending NCAA Division II National Champions, North Dakota State. The Bison had led early 14-0, and now, as Hollingsworth counted Troy players, the seconds vanished off the clock, and were now single digits.
Troy trailed 17-15 on that December night. The field was in McAllen, Texas, site of the Division II National Championship game.
The snap was sharp, and as the scoreboard clock reached :01, Clem drove his long, strong leg into the ball, and it left his foot like something shot out of a cannon. The horn sounded as the ball left his foot.
As soon as Clem picked up the flight and trajectory of the ball, he knew it was good. He leapt, arms outstretched and upright, again and again, before the end zone officials could shadow his signal.
Everyone on the field turned to watch, as the ball split the uprights and the crossbar, and the ESPN telecast immediately cut off and went to commercial.
Troy’s 18-17 win over North Dakota State as time expired in ’84 was the first title since 1968, but the Trojans would claim another championship in 1987.
There has been much history in the years of Troy State and Troy University football, historic seasons, great players and memorable moments.
As the dizzying number of bowl games are played every day and night this week and next, we are reminded of those that have had strong seasons, and introduced to those teams in bowl games invited to fill out the 70-team, 35-bowl-game schedule.
When each college football season begins, there is a part of every loyal Troy University fan that hopes, just maybe, this will be the year.
Maybe this will be the year Troy will somehow upset two or three larger foes on their schedule and then run the table in the Sun Belt. Maybe then Troy will be the new Boise State, the team that will capture the attention of the nation.
Far fetched? Maybe. Does it hurt to dream? Not at all.
Where Troy has gone in the last three decades has been impressive. The foundation was set in the ’80’s, and great strides have been made since. Players such as DeMarus Ware, Osi Umenyiora, Leodis McKelvin, Lawrence Tynes and Jerrel Jernigan are examples of the talent to come to Troy and later play in the NFL.
There will be more to come.
This is a testimony to the commitment and work of head coach Larry Blakeney and everyone in his supporting cast, from assistant coaches and everyone above and below.
Anyone that would have said this past August that Auburn would be 12-1 right now would have been laughed at.
Anyone that makes bold predictions for Troy also is dreaming, but maybe, just maybe, that dream is not too far down the road.
There is no way Troy can realistically expect to stand toe to toe with the major college powers, but in our lifetime there will be many historic seasons, great players and memorable moments to come.
That much I believe.
Dan Smith is the Director of Troy Parks and Recreation, and a Contribution Columnist for The Messenger.