Martial, Johnson named Trojans of the Year

Published 9:21 am Wednesday, June 21, 2023

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The Troy Messenger’s Male and Female Trojan of the Year go to Troy University Athletes that have been leaders on and off the field and none embody that more than the inaugural winners; Leanna Johnson and Carlton Martial.

Few players in the Troy Football and Softball programs can claim as many accolades than Martial and Johnson. In fact, the pair were selected as this year’s Trojan Tribute Male and Female Athletes of the Year, Troy Athletics’ top annual individual awards, as well.

Martial finished his Troy career as a four-time All-Sun Belt recipient – taking First-Team honors all four times – along with earning Freshman All-American and being named All-American on two different occasions. He was a finalist for the Burlsworth Trophy twice, was named the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year as a senior and was selected to play in the 2023 Senior Bowl.

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Martial also wrapped up his career as a Trojan as not only the Sun Belt and Troy University career tackles leader but the NCAA FBS career tackles record holder.

“It’s crazy to think about, but it hasn’t really soaked in yet,” Martial said after breaking the FBS record. “I’m at a loss for words. I’m proud of my team. I didn’t come back to break this record, I came back for my teammates. Honestly, it’s really a team effort. We were 11 guys on the same page.”

Martial’s selfless attitude led him to be known as the unquestioned leader of Troy’s historic 2023 defense.

“There is no guy like Carlton,” teammate Will Choloh said during the season. “We talked about (the record) before the game and we were telling him that this would be the perfect game for him to break the record, and all he kept saying was, ‘Man, I’m not going to focus on that.’ We made sure to let him know it, though, and we kind of knew he would do it. It’s a special moment for a special guy.”

Martial’s coach, Jon Sumrall, said that after he agreed to take on the job at Troy, getting Martial to come back for one more season was his main focus.

“He’s an unbelievable young man, and I had the privilege to recruit him out of high school,” Sumrall recalled. “I’m so proud of him because he’s had so many people in his ear telling him he wasn’t enough but he’s truly a tackling machine. I’ve known him for so long, since his high school career. When I was hired back (at Troy), it wasn’t about trying to recruit new high school kids. It was about getting him to return for his sixth year.”

As a senior Martial tallied a career-high 135 tackles along with 3.5 tackles-for-loss, one sack, one interception, three pass breakups and one forced fumble. In his Troy career, he netted 577 tackles, 50.5 tackles-for-loss, 10.5 sacks, six interceptions, 15 pass breakups, eight forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Like Martial, Johnson etched her name in Troy Softball’s record books, as well. Johnson earned All-Sun Belt honors four times in her Troy career, was named All-South Regional three times and was the 2019 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year. She became Troy’s all-time career wins leader as a senior and also became just the second player in Troy history to collect more than 1,000 career strikeouts.

Johnson also ranks 10th in school history in ERA, second in appearances, second in complete games pitched, first in shutouts, second in saves and second in innings pitched. She also ranks in the Top 10 in virtually every pitching category in a season and single game. She was also a part of a Troy team that made it to the NCAA Regionals for just the second time in school history.

Despite all of the individual accolades, Johnson talks about the team more than anything.

“Whenever we got that regional bid, that was a great experience,” Johnson told The Messenger previously about her favorite Troy memories. “All the road trips with my teammates and getting creative trying to make those road trips somewhat fun are some of my favorite memories. Also, one of my favorite memories from this year was definitely when we walked it off against Louisiana in the seventh (inning) to win that first game in the series. It was really fun, just sharing that moment with all my teammates was really awesome.”

Johnson finished her Troy career with a 101-41 career record in the circle and she struck out 1,058 batters in 890 innings pitched. She also earned 10 saves and 35 shutouts along with holding a 1.98 career ERA. She also held opposing batters to a .185 career batting average.