Trojans enter the transfer portal

As the smoke clears from National Signing Day on Dec. 21, four Troy University football players have entered the transfer portal, including the Trojans’ leading receiver.

Only one Troy player entered the portal before the bowl game, cornerback Elijah Culp, but since then a further four have entered. Those new entrees into the portal include running back Charles Strong, receiver AJ Lewis, quarterback Peter Costelli and receiver Tez Johnson.

Johnson earned All-Sun Belt honors in both 2021 and 2022, leading Troy in receiving both seasons. He tallied 56 catches for 863 yards and four touchdowns this season and even threw a touchdown pass. For his Troy career, the Pinson native hauled in 141 catches, 1,809 yards and eight touchdowns.

Johnson’s 67 catches in 2021 tied for eighth best in school history, while his 141 career catches ties him for ninth in school history. His 1,809 career receiving yards also ranks 10th in Troy history. Johnson was also ProFootballFocus’ highest graded receiver in the entirety of the Group of 5 this season.

“I would like to thank you all for allowing me to represent what it is like to be a Trojan,” Johnson said in a statement on social media. “I would like to thank my coaches for giving me the opportunity to play and showcase my talents.

“I would also like to thank my teammates for standing by my side through hard times, sharing unforgettable moments and creating bonds that will never be broken. Lastly, I would like to thank the loudest band in the country, ‘The Sound of the South,’ and the best student section in the Sun Belt. Thank you for cheering me on and making it hard for the other team.”

Troy coach Jon Sumrall gave his thoughts on Johnson’s decision to leave on Wednesday, as well.

“I love Tez dearly,” Sumrall said of Johnson. “I love all of our players. We’re in a different world now and we support our guys that feel like that this isn’t the best place for them or that their journey here is over.

“The day he decided to go in (the transfer portal) I had a great conversation with him, so this wasn’t a surprise to us. We’re grateful for his contributions here and I wish him nothing but the best moving forward and will do whatever I can to help.”

Charles Strong (25) looks for running room in a Troy scrimmage. (Photo by Josh Boutwell)

Strong is a 6-foot-1-inch, 230-pound Lake Butler, Fla., native that started his career at Texas A&M. Strong was a four-star prospect coming out of high school but played in just one game during his freshman year at Texas A&M, and transferred to Troy.

Strong has played in 22 total games at Troy – just one in 2022 – but most of that has been on special teams. He rushed 17 times for 74 yards and one touchdown in 2020 but has not carried the ball since then. He was moved to linebacker in 2021 before moving back to running back this past offseason.

Lewis was a three-star recruit coming out of Murphy High School in Mobile and has caught 18 passes for 151 yards and five touchdowns during his Troy career. He played in all 14 games this season but didn’t register a reception for the first time in his college career. He earned his degree at Troy in December, however.

Costelli transferred to Troy this past summer as the highest rated recruit in Trojan history. Costelli was a star quarterback in his home state of California and was a track star in high school. He started his college career at Utah and redshirted in 2021 before transferring to Troy.

Peter Costelli (3) transferred to Troy from Utah during the summer. (Photo by Josh Boutwell)

During fall camp, Costelli competed with Gunnar Watson for the starting quarterback position but after Jarret Doege transferred to Troy during fall camp he became the No. 2 quarterback behind Watson. Costelli saw his only game action of the season against Alabama A&M on Sept. 10.

Costelli’s decision to transfer leaves Troy’s scholarship quarterbacks on the roster as Watson, Brantley native Tucker Kilcrease, Quayde Hawkins and incoming freshman JD Sherrod.