Senior leadership paved way for success

Published 9:25 pm Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Every team, no matter how talented, needs leadership.

It is an aspect of the game that may get overlooked sometimes thanks to flashy players and statistics, but in the end, it makes all the difference in the world between winning and losing. The Troy Trojans football team understands that fact very well after this past season.

In a 12-game span that saw the team hit the lows of falling out of first place for the first time in seasons, to regrouping with only two games left to win its fifth-straight conference championship, leadership has led the way.

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And no one knows that better than the head coach himself.

“This is a group that has been great on and off the field in every aspect,” Larry Blakeney said.

“Since day one, each one of these seniors has done his best to help get us in the positions we have been in over the years. This group may not have won the most games collectively, but they are certainly one of the best ones that I have been around since I have been here. Winning as many conference championships and going to as many bowl games as they have gone to speaks a lot about them, especially in a day and age where that is what really matters in college football.”

While this group has been a part of four-straight conference championships, it also could have been a part of four-straight bowl trips, if not for the Trojans being left out the postseason mix back in 2007 after finishing with eight wins.

As of right now, this senior class has gone 33-18 in the last four seasons, including two bowl games, and still one more to play.

A big part of that has been thanks to the 22 seniors on the roster, according to the coach.

“We have some talented juniors, sophomores and even freshman that have helped the team long the way, but its the seniors that stand out for the leadership they provide this teams,” Blakeney said. “And there are not many classes as good as this senior class.

“Last season, we had a bunch of guys that you could line up and say were going to the Pros, and while that may not be necessarily the case with this group they have kept this team together. This team really has played together as a team – they have played as one. And a big part of that comes from the leadership element those guys have provided.”

One of the players who has played a big part of what the Trojans have been able to do over the last couple of seasons is senior wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan.

While Jernigan is gearing up for his final Troy game, he is leaving a trail of broken records behind him.

This season alone, the wide out has become the new leader in both the school and the Sun Belt’s record for career receptions, career receiving yards and All-Purpose yardage.

Now, he prepares for the end of his career after a season full of ups and downs.

“Coach Blakeney has always told us to ride the ups and forget the lows, and that is basically, what we did,” he said.

“This team stuck together and that was a big reason why we were able to finish the way we did. And it feels great. I’m not really ready for it to be over with, but I’m looking forward to New Orleans and the Superdome.”

Another, more unsung hero for the Trojans, who like Jernigan has been with the team the past four seasons is senior Sam Sellers.

“It’s been great to experience everything that I have been a part of while at Troy,” the Troy-native Sellers said.

“To help Troy win five conference championships is just phenomenal.”

In Sellers final regular season game as a Trojan, his hard worked paid off as he not only helped his team get a win, but also earned the conferences’ Special Teams Player of the Week award.

“I’m just glad that I could help Troy out,” he said. “I am very happy about it, but I was real excited that I could do that for Troy.”

In the coach’s mind, there is no doubt that the leadership provided helped the team salvage a season that could have been lost.

“There is no question that their leadership made all the difference for us this season,” the coach said.

“Young people are always resilient, but this team went through some tough, tough times this season. There are some teams that would have crumbled after a last second, one-point loss but this team didn’t. That is the same kind of characteristic that I have seen from all the Troy teams I have coached. They have all been resilient and I am proud of them all, especially this team.”