Oct. 23, 2009
Torrell Troup was about to enter the Varsity Club at the Citrus Bowl for a news conference to announce his selection to play in the East-West Shrine Game for college football's top players when he was briefed that he might have to face several questions from the media, bowl representatives and fans.
"Well, if I'm going to play in the NFL," Troup said with a chuckle, "I guess I better get ready for this type of stuff."
Troup, UCF's massive 6-foot-3, 314-pound defensive tackle, is undoubtedly on a collision course to play in the NFL following his playing days with the Knights. That was made clear on Thursday when it was announced that he would join other top NFL prospects and play in the 85th East-West Shrine Game at the Citrus Bowl. The game will be played Jan. 23 at 3 p.m. and Troup couldn't be more excited about the opportunity.
"It's a very big honor and a great opportunity to play football with the best, to get recognized and to raise money for kids," Troup said. "It probably won't hit me until practice starts, but I understand that I'll be going against some of the best players in the country and I'm up to that challenge. If you want to be the best you have to want to play the best. You never know how good you are until you play someone who is considered the best."
Troup is certainly considered one of Conference USA's best defensive linemen, and he led the charge last Saturday night when UCF's front seven dropped Miami star quarterback Jacory Harris for six sacks. Troup is such a talent that he regularly draws double teams, something that has helped ends Bruce Miller (5.5 sacks) and Jarvis Geathers (5.5 sacks) thrive while UCF ranks 11th in the country in sacks per game (3.0).
Troup and UCF (3-3) go for a big bounce-back win Saturday in Houston against winless Rice (0-7). The Knights were somewhat devastated by last Saturday's 27-7 loss to Miami before a record crowd at Bright House Networks Stadium, but a return to Conference USA play this week has seemed to energize the team.
"We've had a good week, we really have," UCF coach George O'Leary
said. "It's the second half of the season and I've told them it's one at a time and let's see where it goes."
Where Troup is going, eventually, is on to football's highest level. He is a beast on the inside because of his rare blend of both agility and raw strength. In the test NFL teams to determine a player's arm strength and endurance, Troup can bench press 225 pounds 36 times. And remarkably, he can squad 670 pounds.
That kind of awesome power often makes it necessary for teams to use two blockers to slow down UCF's man in the middle. Troup actually joked that he was looking forward to playing in the East-West Shrine All-Star Game because it might be the first time all season he's not had to face constant double teams. Because of the attention he's received, Troup has just one sack and 2.5 tackles for loss this season. But O'Leary stressed those numbers would be much higher were he not being hit from numerous directions throughout the game.
Practically every NFL team has sent scouts to Orlando to watch Troup practice and play this season. And O'Leary, who has coached dozens of NFL players through the years and worked with the Minnesota Vikings defensive line prior to coming to UCF, believes the senior tackle has what it takes to thrive at the next level.
"He has an opportunity to play on Sunday," O'Leary said. "He's had a bunch of pro scouts in to look at him. He has a chance because he has so much ability. He's one of the few big guys who can play with a flat back and move his feet. He's a power guy too, and those kids are hard to find."
Troup said is sometimes boggles his mind that he's become a star at UCF and a legitimate NFL prospect considering how he's still somewhat of a newcomer to football. He didn't start playing football until he was in the ninth grade and his family moved from Michigan to Conyers, Ga. Formerly a basketball player, he found a home on the football field where he could use his awesome power.
He credits his father, Tory Troup, with helping push him in the direction of football and push him toward success.
"I knew before I started playing I talked to my dad and he told me if I was going to do this that I had to take it seriously," said Troup, whose mother, Lashana Johnson, has also played a major role in his development. "My dad wasn't going to accept anything other than perfection from me. He just wants the best from me and pushes me no matter what I'm doing."
When it comes to thoughts of the NFL, Troup has pushed those to the back of his mind and focused on his senior season at UCF. More than anything, he wants a winning record and another bowl trip for this team. And he's been able to block out the peering eyes of NFL scouts and the questions about his future in the NFL.
"I haven't gotten a lot of real feedback (about his draft status), but people are more and more interested in me. More and more scouts are showing up at the school so that has to be a good thing," he said. "But you can't look to the future because if you don't do what you have to do now you won't make it that far. That's why I've tried to keep my head down and keep chugging."
But come time for the all-star game in January, Troup said he'll be the biggest advertiser for the game. He said he use his social networking sites and word of mouth to try and get plenty of UCF fans over to the Citrus Bowl to watch him play against some of the top college players in the country.
"It's a big deal because my parents will come and watch me play. And not just my family, my friends and a lot of the people who go to UCF will be able to come," he said with another laugh. "I'll be on Facebook trying to get people there. I'll spread the word on campus and I want as many people as possible from UCF to come and watch me play."
John Denton's Knights Insider appears every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail John at email@example.com.