High expectations for Trojans

Published 9:59 pm Wednesday, August 19, 2009

If the members of the Brundidge Rotary Club weren’t already sold on Troy University football, then they “got sold” Wednesday – unless they slept thought the lunch meeting.

Neal Brown, the Trojans offensive coordinator, and Steve Dennis, Troy University director of athletics, expressed confident optimism in the 2009 Troy Trojans football team and in the course that has been set for the future of athletics at Troy University.

Brown said this is an exciting time at Troy University. The campus has changed dramatically and so have the football fortunes with three Sun Belt championships in three years.

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And, not only are people in and around Pike County taking notice of the caliber of football played by the Troy University Trojans, so are those in the know.

Preseason picks include Trojans in the running for such prestigious awards as the Lombardi, Maxwell, Manning and Biletnikoff awards.

“We also have a pipeline to the NFL,” Brown told the Rotarians. “We owe our success to three people — Coach Larry Blakeney, Steve Dennis, our athletic director, who has been through the battles, and our chancellor, Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. for his support and leadership.”

Brown said the pre-season hype and high expectations for Trojan football are not unrealistic.

“We are one of only 21 teams that have won eight or more games three years in a row,” he said. “How we finished at LSU still sticks in our craw, but the most disappointing finish was Southern Miss. We got beaten by a team that was not as good as we were. That is a driving force behind this season.”

Brown said the off-season training – conditioning and lifting – is evidence that the team has taken its task to heart.

“On offense, we’ve got more talent returning than before,” Brown said and, many of the players may not be considered the best in the country “but they’re in the conversations.”

Brown likes what he sees in the Trojans interior line, and the prospect of two tight ends is exciting. The quarterback position looks good with Levi Brown, a pro prospect, under center and Jamie Hampton back from last season’s injury. The running backs are outstanding, and the wide receivers are a threat to “take it the distance” at any time.

And, Dennis said the schedule has been set up “nicely,” and he’s seeing more Troy University shirts around campus and around town than ever before.

“Brundidge and Elba are Troy University’s backyards,” he said. “We have the university in common.”

Dennis praised the university’s faculty for its academic support and its dedication to excellence among student athletes.

“Out of 375 student athletes, 175 of them had GPAs of 3.0 or better,” he said. “The Graduation Success Rate among student athletes is 80 percent.”

Just this month, Forbes magazine ranked Troy University 70th among America’s Best Public Colleges. That was the best in the state.”

Dennis said, when a Troy University coach makes a promise “in the house,” he or she will make sure that student does what he or she needs to do to graduate.

“We take a personal interest in our student athletes,” he said.

Dennis said the Troy University football program will continue to grow.

The number of home games has increased and, by 2012, six home games will be a reality. A 50,000-seat stadium is in the university’s not to distant future.

“But you – the communities — are the backbone of our athletic programs,” he said.

“Get in the game by buying tickets to the games, joining a booster club or contributing to the capital campaign.”

Dennis ended by expressing appreciation to the Rotarians for their longstanding support of and involvement in the community.

“The world is made up of givers and takers,” he said. “Rotarians are givers.”