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Troupe Talk: The First Wednesday in February

By Ben Troupe
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The first Wednesday in February, for most people, is just another "hump day", but if you are a high school football player with the chance to go to the next level, it is the greatest day of the year.

The first Wednesday in February, for most people, is just another "hump day", but if you are a high school football player with the chance to go to the next level, it is the greatest day of the year. You get to sign your national letter of intent to the school of your choice. Everything you have gone through, or better yet, grown through, whether good or bad, led to that moment. There were days that you thought to yourself 'this football thing ain't for me' because the results weren't matching the preparation and work that you put in. But you stuck with it and it all paid off because you listened, you stayed on your grind and you persevered.

National signing day was more than just me putting pen to paper and realizing that my football dreams and aspirations were still out there to be conquered, it was about everybody that had something to do with that day coming to pass. My family, coaches, teachers teammates and even the silent supporters, the ones who both wanted to see me succeed and those who hoped I'd fail; those that watch and spectate from afar but never made their presence or voice felt. National signing day was a celebration of everything and everyone it took to get here. It was one of the greatest journeys worth going on.

My signing day was way back in February of 2000 at Butler High School in Augusta, Georgia and I was alongside my teammates Issac West, who went to Furman, and Carlos Rogers, who went to Auburn. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was wearing a black suit with my class ring on, which is a blue stone by the way. With every major news network in attendance, I signed my national letter of intent to attend the University Of Florida, which, to this day, still gives me chills because it was and still is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. The library was filled with teachers, coaches, teammates, friends and, most of all, students who were just staring at Carlos, Issac and I. We were the first major recruits as a trio to go through this process and make it all the way through. It was humbling because, in my mind, I was thinking "why me?" with all of the great players that I played with and against. I was thinking why me?

I remember shaking a lot of hands and saying "thank you" to whoever would listen...and I meant every word. The best feeling was the very next day because me, 'Ike and 'Los were on the front page of the sports section of the Augusta Chronicle. It was humbling then and it's even more humbling now. To this day, I don't know if I was a 1-star, a 5-star or a no-star as it pertains to rankings and look at how crazy that process has become. What I do know is that I set my mind to get an athletic scholarship to play college football and never in my wildest dreams would I ever had thought I would get to go to Florida. But I did and it was amazing.

I was blessed that, in 2000, Florida had the number one recruiting class in the country and I was a part of that. While the early signing period threatens to dismiss national signing day all together, I was and still am blessed to have had my moment that will never be taken away from me and always remembered. Oh, and just so you know, it came down to Florida and Georgia and obviously I made the right choice. I was 4-0 against the 'Dawgs. National signing day never gets old even as I do. Wow, what a feeling. A dream come true.

Ben Troupe - Troupe played tight end for the Florida Gators from 2000-2003, and earned first-team All-SEC recognition and first-team All-American honors from ESPN, Rivals and Sports Illustrated as a senior. After a standout college career, Troupe was selected 40th overall in the 2004 NFL Draft, the first pick of the Tennessee Titans that spring. Currently, Troupe is a representative for the NFL Ambassadors via the College Outreach Program and the USA Football Youth and High School Program while also serving as an assistant master trainer for Head's Up coaching initiative. Troupe can be heard on ESPN Coastal's "Three & Out" with B.J. Bennett and Kevin Thomas.