Denison remembers TSU national title ‘like it was yesterday’

Published 8:23 pm Friday, July 11, 2014

Joey Denison can’t help but smile when recalling that windy night in south Texas 30 years ago.

Denison, offensive and defensive line coach for the Pike County Bulldogs, was an offensive lineman for the Trojans during the run to the NCAA Division II Football National Championship in 1984.

Denison’s main role on the title team was blocking on extra points and field goals, but due to a freak injury in the semi-final round of the playoffs, Denison wasn’t on the field for Ted Clem’s famous 50-yard field goal to win the championship.

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He wasn’t on the field, but Denison does remember what went through his mind as Clem’s kick sailed throw the uprights.

“The first thought that crossed my mind was ‘Oh, my God. We just won the national title’,” Denison said with a laugh. “We were all a little stunned, but then went crazy. It was the end of a great season.”

Denison starred at Charles Henderson during hi high school days, winning an Alabama High School Athletic Association State Championship in 1980 and being selected All-Area and All-South Alabama Football Conference player.

After finishing at Charles Henderson, Denison inked with North Alabama. However, his time in Florence was short.

“I stayed at UNA for a year,” Denison said. “I redshirted my first year up there, basically because I didn’t know how to pass block. We ran the wishbone in high school, so when I got up there I didn’t know about all this going backward stuff.”

Denison left the Lions for Troy State after his freshman year, and worked his way on to the field as part of the Trojan special teams unit in 1984.

He blocked for Clem’s kicks all season long, but suffered an injury during TSU’s blowout win over Towson State in the semifinals.

“It was just one of those freak incidents,” Denison said. “The pile of folks went right and I went left. I didn’t think I would be able to play the rest of the time, but I made it back and got to play a little.”

Following his career at Troy, Denison moved on to Jacksonville State as a graduate assistant for four seasons, before beginning his high school career at Eufaula.

He made stops at Hillcrest of Evergreen, Charles Henderson and Luverne before arriving at Pike County in 2008.

Denison said he uses lessons learned from former Troy State head coach Chan Gailey and assistant Jay Jefcoat in his daily dealing with Pike County athletes.

“We just want to get the most out of guys every day,” Denison said. “Coach Gailey did that back then, and we do it as well. If our guys get just a little bit better every day, then things are going well.”

Despite his playing days being 30 years in the past, Denison says he knows exactly where both of championship rings are.

“They don’t fit on the right finger anymore, but I still have the Charles Henderson state title and the national title ring,” Denison said. “They are good reminders of the fun we had playing football and the great friends we made along the way.”

Editor’s note: This is the second story in a series profiling local coaches that played for Troy University. If you have a coach you would like to see featured, email