Originally created 04/25/04

Troupe gets call from Tennessee

SWAINSBORO, Ga. - It's hard for most to understand the sort of perch in life Ben Troupe sits on this morning. Mr. Troupe, a product of George P. Butler High School, joined the National Football League on Saturday.

He was chosen by the Tennes-see Titans in the second round of the 2004 NFL Draft, becoming the area's first selection since Kendrell Bell, a Lucy C. Laney High School graduate who was a second-round pick in 2001.

But everyone understands what it's like waiting on a dream. That's where Mr. Troupe was at 5:25 p.m. Saturday, tucked into a bedroom that barely fit the 6-foot-5, 262-pound tight end.

A sign on a locked door to his room at a family friend's home in Swainsboro read, "Ben's room: Don't even think about it." Credit Mr. Troupe with some incredible foresight. He didn't want any of the 40 or so friends and family at his draft-day parties to see him sweat.

"Ben said he wanted to be in that room so he could watch the draft alone and we could all be outside," said his mother, Cheryl Troupe. "He would come out and join us once he got picked."

The national broadcast on ESPN first mentioned his name as a potential pick at 3:30. By that time, Mr. Troupe was ready, sitting in a black leather recliner as the picks streamed in. His cell phone was charged up and ready to go. The phone was parked on his chest; his size 13 foot was snaked across another piece of furniture.

Many television viewers don't know that players get a call alerting them that they've been drafted minutes before their name gets announced on the national broadcast. Mr. Troupe was still waiting for that call at 5:55. Carlos Rogers, a teammate from Butler, knocked on the door after pick No. 27 was announced. Mr. Troupe's name had been mentioned to go anywhere from No. 17 to 32 in the first round.

"You all right?" Mr. Rogers said. "My heart is pounding out of my chest for you, man."

Mr. Troupe gave him a smile back.

"I'm all right," he said. "Nothing I can do about this. Can't control who these teams want."

When Georgia's Ben Watson, another tight end, was chosen with the final pick of the first round, oohs spilled forth from the large gathering of well-wishers in his room. Mr. Troupe, despite predictions of first-round talent, was going to be a second-round pick.

The black leather recliner proved too hot a seat for Mr. Troupe once the second round began.

His time arrived at 6:11. His cell phone rang, and his voice dropped an octave into a tone expected out of bodybuilders. Mr. Troupe had been practicing that voice with every ring of his phone over the past two hours.

"What's up, Coach?" Mr. Troupe said.

Jeff Fisher, the coach of the Titans, was on the other end.

"Yes, sir, of course I am healthy," Mr. Troupe answered. "Yes, sir, I'm ready to be a Titan."

And just like that, Mr. Troupe went from an 21-year-old blocking out some serious jitters to an inspiration to every Butler High player for years to come.

"Of course I was nervous through it all," said Mr. Troupe, who will wear No. 81 for the Titans. "But a coach told me that it's not where you fall in the draft. It's where you rise to after that draft. That's me. I'm going to an elite organization and an elite team. I'm going to show them I can be a difference-maker in this league."

The No. 40 selection in the 2003 NFL draft received a $1,875,000 contract and a $3.1 million contract for four years. Mr. Troupe will likely command a slightly larger payday than that.

"My son just became a millionaire today," said John Troupe, Ben's father. "It's like he just won the lottery."

Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425

or jeff.sentell@augustachronicle.com.


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