Originally created 04/24/04

Troupe will be first-day choice



Growing up, Ben Troupe's favorite team was the San Francisco 49ers.

That will all change today when Troupe, a Butler alumnus, is expected to be chosen early during the NFL Draft in New York.

"I liked the San Francisco 49ers, because I liked Jerry Rice," Troupe said. "Now my favorite team is going to be the team that picks me."

He shouldn't have to wait long, either. Troupe, who went to Florida, is rated as the second-best tight end prospect behind Miami's Kellen Winslow Jr. He could go as high as No. 17 to Denver, who is looking for a successor to Shannon Sharpe, or fall into the early second round.

Troupe said he wouldn't be disappointed to fall out of the first round, he'll just be happy to hear his name called.

"I'm going to be real excited," he said. "It's a dream come true. I'm just living a dream, not just to know your four years of college, but to know your life's work has paid off."

For people that have known Troupe, it's an exciting time as well.

Troupe's tight end coach at Butler, Ben Klofenstine, has followed his student's progress closely.

"You spend four years coaching him and getting to know him, he's such a good kid," Klofenstine said. "Some of those plays he makes in those games, jumping and running over people ... he showed signs of that in high school. Where he's at now is kind of unbelievable.

"It's just going to get better for him with the opportunities he's going to have the rest of his life."

Troupe's mother, Cheryl, is keeping her emotions under control, for now.

Every day in the past week, she watched ESPN's draft coverage to hear any word about her son.

"I try not to think about it a whole lot," she said. "I guess I'm excited, but I just try not to think about it."

As his family and friends gather today for the eventual celebration, Troupe plans on isolating himself until he gets drafted.

His mother plans to tell the guests to not bother him until after his name is called.

Troupe shouldn't be alone for very long.

"It's the biggest stage in the world," he said. "I just want the team I go to, to know I'm here to help them win."

Troupe got to this position by having a stellar college career with the Gators.

He finished with 64 catches for 958 yards and seven touchdowns. He was also named a finalist for the John Mackey Award, which is given to the nation's top collegiate tight end.

Klofenstine remembers a time that Troupe wasn't even on the map.

"He wasn't rated as one of the premier tight ends in the nation," he said. "Even when he was at Florida he was playing backup and waiting for an opportunity. He got it and made the most of it."

Reach Raymond Beasock at (706) 823-3221 or raymond.beasock@augustachronicle.com.