• 64°

Trojans invade Greenville for annual Trojan Tour

Troy University head football coach Neal Brown chatted with Greenville locals during Thursday’s Trojan Tour event at Cambrian Ridge.

Troy University head football coach Neal Brown chatted with Greenville locals during Thursday’s Trojan Tour event at Cambrian Ridge.

Troy University made its perennial pit stop in the Camellia City during Thursday’s Trojan Tour event, followed by the Jimmy Gardner Golf Tournament that afternoon.

The Trojan Tour is a seven-stop trek across the Southeast in which Troy University coaches and athletic administrators reflect on last year’s successes—including Sun Belt championships for the men’s golf team and the women’s basketball team— and outline their goals for the upcoming year.

Barry McKnight, the Voice of the Trojans, once again presided over the event, and opened with a number of new statistics concerning Troy University student-athletes.  Perhaps the most startling news was that student-athletes at Troy boasted an average grade point average of at least 3.0.

McKnight also introduced McClain to Greenville, who had been named Troy’s new athletic director since the university’s previous visit to Greenville.

McKnight added McClain offered a unique perspective as a former Troy student-athlete.

“We do try to focus on our student-athletes,” McClain said.

“We want to win championships and we want to make you guys proud of us; that’s our objective.  But at the end of the day, when our student-athletes finish and leave us, we’ve got to have them prepared for what’s next.  It’s not just walking across that stage and getting that diploma.  It’s about being prepared to tackle life, be productive and hopefully be Trojans for life.  That’s where our emphasis lies with me, as a former student-athlete, and I think that path will serve us well.”

To underscore that development of well-rounded students that adhere to Troy’s motto—Educate the mind to think, the heart to feel and the body to act—the Trojan Tour also highlighted a new community service effort called the Campus Kitchen.

The Campus Kitchen has provided nearly 6,500 meals in nearly two years by taking excess cafeteria food and giving it to those in need.  The late Ken Gibson contributed to the effort by providing a vehicle to deliver meals courtesy of Greenville Motors, and Troy University presented his surviving family members with a token of thanks for his numerous contributions to Troy University.

Troy head football coach Neal Brown, head men’s basketball coach Phil Cunningham, head women’s basketball coach Chanda Rigby, head women’s soccer coach Jason Hamilton and head men’s baseball coach Mark Smart all highlighted the importance of trying to “start from the inside out” with local recruiting.

Many of Troy’s local recruits have borne fruit, including basketball sensation and Brantley native Wesley Person Jr., who was the first Freshman of the Year in Troy’s basketball program history.

Brown opened by discussing Athlon Sports picking Troy University as a dark horse contender in the Sun Belt in its 2016 season predictions.

Though accolades are nice, Brown said it wasn’t exactly a compliment.

When you’re a dark horse or a sleeper, usually that means you didn’t have a very good year the year before, so I hope that’s the last time we’re notified of being a dark horse or a sleeper,” Brown said.

“Hopefully, we can be one of the conference favorites from now on.”

Though Brown said there were some positives to take from the 2015 season, he said a number of steps would have to be taken in order for the Trojans to regain their previous reputation in the conference.

The Trojans lost four games by six points or less, including a triple-overtime finish with Appalachian State, whom Brown considers to be the team to beat in the conference.

“We’re not that far away.  It think our offensive line, number one, has to improve.  We’ve got to get better up front, and that’s the hardest position to develop.  You can recruit receivers, running backs and defensive backs to get that fixed.  With the O-line, you’ve got to develop on that, and it takes time.

“The other area of our football team that’s got to continue to improve is the secondary.  We’re thin in the secondary.  I think we have a chance to be one of the better defensive teams in our league, but we’ve got to continue to improve in the backfield.”